Dear members of the university community:
I am writing to update you on the matter involving our students and the City of Clayton.
As I shared with you Monday and you no doubt have been following, a group of 10 of our incoming first-year students, all of whom are African-American, were recently — and wrongly — stopped by Clayton police after leaving a local restaurant. The students were made to feel scared, humiliated and targeted because of their race. It was an entirely unacceptable situation and, since the incident occurred, I have been working with my administration colleagues and the City of Clayton to address it. Importantly, we also have been doing everything we can to support our students.
After earlier outreach to the city, on Tuesday, I met with Mayor Harold Sanger, City Manager Craig Owens and Police Chief Kevin Murphy to share directly that Washington University will not tolerate such treatment of anyone, certainly not our students. Earlier today, we facilitated a meeting between our students and City of Clayton leaders, including Chief Murphy. From the city leaders’ own account, it was an extremely emotional experience that moved the city to action.
Our students have received an apology, and the City of Clayton has detailed a four-part action plan to improve racial sensitivity in the city. The plan includes commitments to review police procedures, to expand bias training for all police officers, and to continue open and candid dialogue about the reality of racial bias in our society and how we all can work to confront it. In turn, I have committed that Washington University will actively partner with the city to implement that plan.
Here, you can read two statements sharing the outcome of today’s meeting, which the university and the City of Clayton released this afternoon.
I am tremendously proud of our students who, through their fortitude and maturity, opened city leaders’ hearts and minds. These students have shared that they came to Washington University to change the world, and they already have.
Mark S. Wrighton