Incident report reveals more on racial letters

Jacob Dick

The incident report documenting racist letters sent to a faculty member shows the suspected motive differs from what was previously reported and shows a connection to a candidate for a university position.

The incident report also revealed Michelle Jones, assistant dean of University College, was told the incident didn’t violate Kentucky law after an initial interview on Aug. 29 with the Campus Police.

Wednesday afternoon, Jones said she had not been told by an officer her complaint didn’t constitute a violation of Kentucky law. She also said officers had came to her office last week to follow up on the case and received a sign-up list from the University College meeting.

Aug. 31, a follow up interview was conducted by an officer who contacted Jones by phone to fully document her story. The reporting officer notes he was asked to do a follow up after “new items” became available but did not specify what those new items were. 

The Herald previously reported Jones said she found three messages folded individually under her South Campus office door on Aug. 26 after not being in her office for a 10-day period. The documents were typed and printed with racial remarks targeting Jones for being an African-American.

The incident report was finally received by the Herald after being previously denied twice and cited as being involved in an ongoing investigation. After a third appeal, the report was sent by Campus Police.

The report initially classified Jones’ complaint as harassing communications. Kentucky state law statute KRS 525.080 defines harassing communications as contacting a person anonymously, or otherwise, in any form including by phone or electronically in a manner causing annoyance or alarm.

Harassing communications is a Class B misdemeanor but is also listed as one of the statutes that can be prosecuted as a hate crime when involving any mention of race, gender or orientation.

The Herald originally reported a discussion about diversity and inclusion had occurred at the University College’s first meeting of the semester prior to Jones receiving the letters. Vice Provost for Policies and Personnel Richard Miller originally told the Herald the discussion was needed after a candidate for director of University Studies said she felt uncomfortable while publicly interviewing for the position.

Provost David Lee told the Herald in an editorial board meeting the candidate gave other reasons in addition to being uncomfortable for ending her candidacy and it wasn’t based on the perception of a bad racial climate on campus.

In the incident report, the reporting officer claims Jones stated she believed the incident was “spurred by a search for a new director” for the school of University Studies. The officer goes on to write Jones stated “a person who applied for the position was African American” and “she and others felt as though the applicant did not receive a good interview because of their race.”

Excerpts from the letters sent to Jones state the anonymous author blamed Jones for the meeting and said it caused harm to the School of University Studies and University College. One of the letters also uses a racial slur when referring to the candidate director and tells Jones she “is not the victim here.”

Jones told police she couldn’t think of anyone who may have been responsible for the letters. The officer concluded there were no suspects or persons of interests at that time.

Sergeant Rafael Casas said the investigation was still underway and the police department was in the process of scheduling interviews with all members of the University College present at the discussion of diversity and inclusion.

Reporter Jacob Dick can be reached at (270) 745-6011 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jdickjournalism.