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International students harassed around Troy campus

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Zach Henson

Assistant News Editor

While driving home from working in the TrojanVision studio, two broadcast journalism majors witnessed the harassment of an international student.

Chelsi Law, a senior from Birmingham, offered to drive Nathaniel Rodriguez, a senior from Enterprise, to his dorm in the Newman Center on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 21, and they witnessed the event while turning onto Folmar Street from University Avenue.

“We see a cup, like, land right at him, and then he reacts to it,” Rodriguez said. “When both of us look left, there’s this white dude, college-student-age and also college student because he did have a Troy decal, kind of laughing.

“So, me and Chelsi were both like, ‘Hell no!’ I was pissed. I was livid.”

Law said she could tell the international student felt awful.

“My initial reaction was just shock,” said Law. “Because if you saw the look on his face when he had that drink thrown at him … that look on his face, it was, like, so heartbreaking.

“You could see it written all over his face.”

Law and Rodriguez said the cup was thrown from a truck, which they described as “grayish.”

Rodriguez said the truck could have been a light brown.

Law described Rodriguez as “ready to jump out the car.”

“But I thought it would be quicker if we followed him in my car,” she said, explaining that they wanted to take down the license plate number of the truck.

Law quickly turned around, and the duo followed the truck back onto University Avenue and followed it onto McKinley Drive, past the Chancellor’s Home and lake, then toward the intersection of College Street and Elm Street at Sorority Hill.

“I was trying to stay within the speed limit laws, so I didn’t speed to catch up with him, but I did follow him,” Law said.

The truck went on Elm Street, they said, and then turned back toward campus on George Wallace Drive when a state trooper pulled out, preventing them from following the truck farther.

Law and Rodriguez both posted on Facebook about their experience later that night.

“Hearing about racism and seeing it with your own two eyes are two totally different things,” Law wrote on the Troy Students Facebook page. “Seeing an international student get soda thrown at him by some guy who thought it would be funny made my blood boil.”

As of the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 28, the post had 96 reactions and 21 comments, several of which described similar events.

“I guess this was a common occurrence because last night (Feb. 21), me and a group of my friends were hanging out in the amphitheater and a truck matching y’all’s description drove in the new res parking lot and shouted obscenities at us,” said Peter Nguyen, a student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Annisty Thompson, a senior fine arts major from Eclectic, described seeing another international student harassed on the same night.

“I seen this the other night!” Thompson said. “An international student was walking his dog around 8:30-ish, and someone in a truck slowed down and threw their drink at them and drove off.

“I was livid as I was driving down the road, and the truck was going back up the road.”

Thompson said she could not fully describe the truck, but said it appeared to her to be a Chevy pickup.

“I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Thompson said. “I felt so bad for that poor guy walking his dog.”

Kelci Lewis, a medical laboratory science major from Wetumpka, also commented, describing hanging posters with her boyfriend for her lost cat on that same night around the same time when they were harassed by someone in a gray Ford F-150.

“They turned the corner, revved their engine and started honking and screaming, cussing at us while they zoomed passed us getting extremely close,” she said. “They were yelling something along the lines of ‘Get your a** out of the f***ing road!’ and sped off laughing.”

According to Lewis, this happened three times in the Trojan Village area, the first occurrence being on the same section of Folmar Street where Law and Rodriguez witnessed the harassment of an international student.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if these are the same guys that threw the soda,” she said in her comment on Law’s post. “They need to grow up.

“This behavior is disgusting.”

Kelly Suero, an assistant professor of Spanish, recalled a student telling her about a similar incident as described by Law and Rodriguez. Suero said the student seemed to be embarrassed by the incident. The student could not be contacted.

The student Suero described was also harassed by someone in a gray truck. She said a cup was thrown at the student from the driver’s window and the student was covered in liquid.

“He was shocked and perplexed that this had happened but believed it to be intentional due to the fact that no one else was near him at the time, making him an easy target,” she said.

Suero said the student told her the truck sped away too quickly to see the license plate number.

“As a professor and a member of this community, we want all our students to feel safe and respected,” she said. “This behavior is unacceptable, and I hope the perpetrator is found.”

According to Herbert Reeves, the dean of student services, Troy University is investigating a similar incident in which a license plate number belonging to a Troy student was reported.

Reeves urged students to report incidents to the Student Services office or police, and asks students to have a vehicle description and license plate number, if possible.

Cynthia Mote, a dispatcher for the Troy University Police, reminded students that police are always available at 334-670-1999.

The Tropolitan will continue to update its readers as the investigation progresses.