SALEM -- Nearly 30 percent of the Salem International University student body joined faculty and staff members on Friday to take a stand against campus violence and hate crimes.
The Unity Rally against Violence and Hate Crime was held at noon inside the campus center at SIU.
"It gave us a chance to show that we don't tolerate hate crime on our campus," said Marisela Rodriguez, a senior and president of the student body.
"Our campus is so small and everyone knows everyone, and we get along together. We want to make sure that everything is being done so that we continue to feel safe on campus," she said.
During the rally, it was announced that an arrest had been made in the alleged assault of Shotaro Miki, a Japanese student, that took place on campus Feb. 16.
The area where the student was assaulted was not a well-lit area, Rodriguez said.
"Student administration is going to look into this and other trouble spots on campus to see what can be done to improve safety. We plan to talk with the police to see how they will patrol campus, and we'll talk with the administration to see what other steps can be taken," she said.
The latest FBI statistics show that the fastest growing area of hate crimes were being carried out against Asians and homosexuals, according to Jerry Schearer, assistant dean of students, who spoke at the rally. Race and religion inspire the most hate crimes, with about 40 percent of the bias crimes targeted at blacks, he said.
Schearer told the crowd that the West Virginia Senate on Friday passed a bill that would add disability and sexual orientation to the state hate crimes bill.
"This is a battle we've been fighting for a long time. The bill passed on a 20-12 vote, but it still must pass in the House," he said.
On Tuesday, a noon-time discussion is scheduled to talk about additional solutions. The campus newspaper will also do articles on the subject.
"It's important that we keep the awareness going," Schearer said.
Assistant City Editor Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org