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EXCLUSIVE: Arluan Van Hook, 18, told theGrio Tuesday that he now has to be escorted to and from campus by a police officer after reporting the alleged abuse
A Black student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) recently moved back home with his parents about 24 miles away in St. Louis after enduring months of racial harassment and threats from white members of a campus fraternity he was trying to join.
SIUE engineering student Arluan Van Hook, 18, told theGrio Tuesday that he now has to be escorted to and from campus by a police officer after reporting the alleged abuse to SIUE Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Waple in October and receiving subsequent threatening phone calls from members of the university’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity chapter.
“When [Kappa Sigma members] got word that this investigation started, I received several different phone calls telling me to watch my back on campus,” Van Hook said. “There’s 50 of them, one of me. So that really played a big factor into it. It’s just not feasible to be able to fight 50 individuals when there’s one of you.”
The trouble began in March when Van Hook tried pledging Kappa Sigma after being introduced to the club at a “Meet the Fraternities” event on campus in early February.
“These guys seemed on the up and up, but as time developed, true colors started to show,” Van Hook said.
The sophomore, who currently has a 3.5 GPA, quit pledging Kappa Sigma in October after growing fed up with racist jokes and slurs from members of the chapter whom he said called him the “N-word” and told him, “All African-Americans are on welfare.” Screenshots of text conversations provided to theGrio by Van Hook show at least some members of the fraternity objecting to the racist comments and showing support for him.
Kappa Sigma Fraternity national leaders told theGrio Tuesday that the frat has suspended six members of its SIUE chapter as a result of the comments, which they said were “inappropriate” and “inexcusable”.
“The remarks made by these individuals are contrary to the teachings and values of Kappa Sigma Fraternity,” the frat said in an emailed statement. “The Fraternity is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Kappa Sigma embraces men of all races and walks of life in the membership of our Fraternity.”
Van Hook toldKSDK-TV the alleged abuse he’s endured “changed my life.” He told theGrio his police escort has been a bit of an embarrassment for him.
“As an African American, having to get into the back of a police cruiser anytime you want to go somewhere on campus and then having to have the officer open the back of the police cruiser door … Imagine the image that has put on me,” he said.
So far, Van Hook said complaints to school administrators haven’t resulted in any disciplinary action. The school told the Grio on Tuesday that “immediate action was taken” less than a day after Van Hook’s complaint was received and the matter is still being investigated.
“This disrespectful behavior is unacceptable and has no place at SIUE,” spokesperson Megan Wieser told theGrio via email. “University Police has provided police escorts for the student and the university issued a no-contact order between the student and all members of the fraternity. The fraternity was placed on a cease and desist, and options were provided to adjust on-campus living arrangements for the victim.”
Van Hook said he declined to be placed elsewhere on campus because he didn’t feel safe there. He also said he didn’t feel SIUE has acted swiftly or strongly enough.
“When it was brought to the administrative staff here, they’ve pretty much [brushed] me off,” Van Hook told theGrio. “According to the student conduct handbook, investigations like these can take between five and 20 days. They did not complete this within 20 days, which furthermore shows me that my concerns as an African American student on this campus weren’t valued.”
Van Hook said he’s been seeing a counselor to deal with the mental trauma he’s endured and has recently been told he’s showing signs of depression and anxiety. He’s scheduled to participate in an SIUE administrative hearing about the matter on Thursday.
Some of his peers have advised him to enroll in a different school, but he refuses.
“I’m not going to run away,” he said. “I don’t want another student who goes to this university to have to endure this just because they joined a Caucasian fraternity.”
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