University of Missouri (MU) police arrested 19-year-old Cal Gerhardt early Thursday morning after he allegedly both harassed fellow students and used a racial slur. Police reportedly found and intoxicated Gerhardt yelling outside the door of two students in a campus residence hall.
According to a statement released by Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, police charged Gerhardt with first degree harassment and tampering with a witness.
Sara Diedrich, MU Police Department’s public safety information specialist, said police responded to a call at 2:50 a.m. that Gerhardt was banging and scratching on a student’s door in a resident hall while yelling a racial slur. Police investigated the incident and escorted Gerhardt back to his residence, where he was issued a trespassing warning and summons for being visibly intoxicated as a minor, second-degree property damage and fourth-degree assault.
“However, at about 4:20 a.m., MUPD officers were dispatched back to the same resident hall where Gerhardt was reportedly harassing and banging on the door of the same individual,” said Diedrich.
After police investigated the second incident, Gerhardt was arrested and transported to Boone County Jail, where the case was turned over to the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office.
This was not the first time an incident involving racial slurs has occurred on Mizzou campus. In Sept. 2015, a young group of people yelled racial slurs from a pickup truck at Payton Head, the then-president of the Missouri Students Association. This sparked protests across the campus over the course of the semester after many criticized the administration’s inadequate response to the situation. Tensions ran high as many called for the resignation of then UM system president Tim Wolfe.
The situation continued to escalate when a swastika drawn in human feces was discovered in a dorm bathroom. Members of the group Concerned Student 1950 (in reference to the year when MU first admitted African American students) met with Wolfe but failed to reach a consensus. Graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike until Wolfe resigned. The football team announced they were going to boycott practices and games until Wolfe was removed from office.
The situation came to a head when a user posted on the anonymous messaging app, Yik Yak, saying they were going to “shoot every black person [they] see” at the college. One man was arrested and later pled guilty to making the post.
In November 2015, Wolfe and MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin both resigned from their respective positions. The university appointed an interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, and moved to provide more support for those affected by discrimination.
A similar situation occurred the following year, when intoxicated members of the Delta Upsilon fraternity yelled racial slurs at two black students walking by the fraternity’s house. Police were called and, as they were questioning bystanders, other students gathered on the sidewalk. The Kansas City Star said officers reportedly heard “racially charged comments being made by both black and white students.”
The situation was resolved, and university officials and the Delta Upsilon national organization suspended that chapter the following day.
Bill Stackman, the MU vice chancellor for student affairs, issued a campuswide statement regarding Thursday’s incident, highlighting that their campus is to be welcoming for all.
“As leaders on this campus, we want to make it clear that harassing behavior will be confronted at Mizzou as we strive to uphold our university’s value of respect,” said Stackman. “We are committed to the safety, security and well-being of everyone on our campus, and we are working every day to create an inclusive environment in which every student feels valued. Acts of aggression and intolerance have no place here.”