Eddie Curlin, an African-American former student at Eastern Michigan University, was arraigned Monday morning in Washtenaw County, Mich., District Court on multiple charges stemming from three racist vandalism incidents that took place on the campus between September 2016 and spring 2017.
In September 2016, Curlin, who attended EMU 2014-2016 and is currently serving a sentence of one to five years with the Michigan Department of Corrections for receiving and concealing stolen property, allegedly spray-painted the words “KKK” in red, white and blue and “Leave Niggers” on the side of Julie Anne King Hall.
In October 2016, he allegedly spray-painted the same words in black lettering next to a campus monument of Martin Luther King Jr; then, in the spring of 2017, he allegedly spray-painted a racist message in a men’s restroom stall in EMU’s Sherzer Hall, the Eastern Echo reports.
Curlin, who was not a student at the time the incidents took place, has been charged with “three counts of malicious destruction of property, four counts of identity theft and one count of using computers to commit a crime,” EMU Today reports.
EMU President James Smith said in a statement that “the incidents of vandalism on our campus created significant pain, fear and distress among our students, faculty and staff.”
I joined with many of our community in my own personal anger over these incidents. The many initiatives put in place as a result of the incidents are vitally important and will continue regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings. As one of the most diverse higher education institutions in Michigan, Eastern’s commitment to inclusiveness and being a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds is an ongoing priority.
Among the initiatives put in place since last year: the investment in additional campus security measures, including more lighting and cameras; the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Ronald Woods of the Department of Africology and African American Studies; and, expanded training in diversity and inclusion among University leadership that is now being expanded to other employees. These and other actions will continue to move forward with the focus, determination and importance with which they began.
As previously reported by The Root, Chiara Hensley, assistant vice president for student affairs, addressed the student body in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that rocked the campus as students demanded justice, accountability and a dismantling of the protections afforded racism on campus:
“It’s a new age to address issues of race and white privilege at Eastern,” Hensley said. “[One student] suggested that [students] be taught more explicitly about intersectionality, about privilege and about racism in our general education curriculum. … We’re talking about systemically … what the university can practically do.”
In a statement to EMU Today, Eastern Michigan University Chief of Police Robert Heighes said that his department had been working on solving the crime since “day one.”
“We appreciate that people wanted a fast arrest, but in many cases, that is not the way police work happens,” Heighes said. “I recognize the anger, fear and frustration that these incidents caused for many of our students, faculty and staff, and I thank them for their patience and understanding as we conducted a thorough investigation.”
After his arraignment Monday morning, Curlin was returned to custody to await a Nov. 9 preliminary hearing.
“As a black student, to know that another black person is using the n-word in a negative way is embarrassing,” Jaiquae Rodwell, an EMU student, told the Eastern Echo. “To know that it was a person of color is hurtful.”