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Student sues WSU after racist incident at a fraternity party

Washington State University is in Pullman, Wash. (AP)

A recent Washington State University graduate says one racist incident her freshman year haunted her entire college experience.

Dominique Stewart, a black woman, is suing WSU over the school’s response to an experience she had at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house in 2015.

“As we were leaving the fraternity, one of the members had decided to yell derogatory names at me and proceeded to slam the door in my face,” Stewart told KTTH Radio’s Jason Rantz. “That night was just one of the worst nights of my life. There were fraternity members on the balcony that were recording and laughing at us.”

Stewart reported the incident to the university and the student was expelled from WSU, but the harassment didn’t stop there.

“I had people on social media sending threats and harassment,” Stewart said. “I was overall isolated in my room.”

Stewart and her mother went to the university requesting a personal security detail and a dorm room elsewhere on campus, but the family wasn’t satisfied with the response from the administration on either ask.

About a month later, Stewart’s lawsuit details a second incident which it describes as “possibly one of retaliation.” While walking down fraternity row, a passenger in a car of white males threw a piece of chicken at Stewart while yelling sexist and racist slurs. This time Stewart called the police.

“They had told me to walk back to Greek Row and try to find the license plate of the person who had thrown the chicken at my head,” Stewart said. “I told them that I don’t feel comfortable walking back there.”

This was the main theme of Stewart’s complaints: the university and law enforcement didn’t respond helpfully to her concerns, or, when they offered advice, following it would’ve made her feel unsafe.

The lawsuit indicates Stewart “gained a significant amount of weight; fell behind in classes; and suffered from debilitating PTSD, anxiety, and depression,” because of the harassment and lack of aid.

“I just felt like the university didn’t provide adequate safety procedures that I needed at that time,” Stewart said.

The crux of the accusation in the lawsuit is the university didn’t provide reasonable assistance as required in Title VI and Title IX, the federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race and gender in educational institutions. Stewart is seeking damages.

Federal law prohibits university officials from commenting on the specifics of pending litigation, but WSU spokesperson Phil Weiler told the Moscow Pullman Daily News the university supports students “regardless of ethnicity, race, sexual identity, religion or background.”

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