Alleged racial profiling sparks outrage on North Carolina campus
The wife of a University of North Carolina-Wilmington lecturer claims he was the victim of a racial profiling incident on campus, and infuriated faculty and students say the alleged incident is part of a larger pattern of prejudice at the institution.
According to a press release issued by UNCW on Wednesday, the episode was triggered when an employee of the university called the campus police department on Tuesday afternoon expressing concern over a man's attire. The caller said the man was sitting on a bench on campus wearing a "zipped-up jacket that did not seem congruent with the warm weather conditions." An officer was then dispatched to the location, and asked the man—who identified himself as a professor at the university—to take off his coat to ensure he wasn't concealing weapons. The university said the interaction lasted less than two minutes.
"The officer emphatically indicated, when asked by the faculty member if he was questioning him based on his ethnicity, that this was not the case, and again stated that he was obligated to respond to the call of concern," the release said. "The interaction did not include any physical contact or 'frisking,' nor a request for the man to identify himself or his purpose for being on campus."
The faculty member in question is Rajan Juniku, Ph.D., a lecturer in the university's chemistry department, who was born in Kosovo, according to news reports. His wife, Alicia Juniku, took to Facebook on Tuesday to vent her anger over the situation.
"Can you believe this OUTRAGE!? Rajan was sitting outside in the sun on the UNCW campus a while before his lab started...he's been sick the last two days and was trying to warm up," she wrote. "He had on his jacket, jeans, and a sweater. WELL, apparently someone thought he looked less like a university lecturer and more like a terrorist (olive skinned man with too many clothes on...must be hiding an arsenal) ..." She added that the officer ordered Juniku to take his hands out of his pockets "very slowly" and demanded "no sudden movements."
Further, UNCW released the phone call that led to the interaction, possibly contradicting claims that Juniku's race wasn't a factor. In it, the dispatcher asks the caller, "Can you tell if he is black, white, or Hispanic?" to which the caller replies, "From here, he almost looks like, Indian, maybe." The dispatcher then asks if the caller means "Middle Eastern," to which the caller says, "Yeah, Middle Eastern. He might be a business professor or something. I hate to harass him, but it's just odd he is sitting there."
Alicia Juniku isn't the only one incensed about what happened to her husband. Both faculty and students have posted on social media about the incident.
"UNCW is challenging me today," wrote Stephen Meinhold, a political science professor at the university, wrote on Wednesday.
Brittany Jackson, a student who claimed to have Juniku as a professor, expressed agitation at what happened and shared Alicia's post. "Extremely disappointed in UNCW for the umpteenth time. I had this man as my chemistry professor and he was seriously one of the [sic] most sweetest men I have ever met. Smh [shake my head], I am terribly sorry you guys are going through this."
Meanwhile, David Gill, an associate professor of English education at UNCW, wrote on Facebook that this was not an isolated incident. "UNCW, where I've worked for 18 years, has had a reputation for being unwelcoming to minorities. This incident is the latest example of why that reputation may be correct."
There have been other recent incidents of alleged discrimination at the school. In November of last year, UNCW professor Mike Adams was accused of harassing LGBTQ students, using his social media accounts to spew hate. UNCW insisted at the time that Adams' social media presence "represent his personal expressions and opinions" and are "protected by the First Amendment."
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