A black, female LSU student is claiming she and her roommates were the targets of a hate crime at their off-campus apartment complex after their Halloween decoration was vandalized with a racist message referring to them as monkeys and the N-word.
Clarke Perkins, a junior and student activist on campus, contacted police about the incident after finding the phrase, "Go Back 2 Africa Nigger Monkeys" had been scribbled across the head of the decorative ghost Perkins and her four roommates had hanging outside the door of their University House apartment.
Officials with the Baton Rouge Police Department confirmed Thursday they are investigating the complaint but said no incident report had been filed yet for public review.
After Perkins posted a photo of the vandalized ghost on her Twitter page, LSU President F. King Alexander reached out to her. In his social media statement, King offered his condolences and met with Perkins on Thursday pledging to help her and her roommates move out of the complex if they wanted.
Perkins said there was nothing written on the decorative ghost when she came home from class around 3 p.m .Wednesday. She discovered the racial slur when she was leaving the apartment about two hours later.
"At first I thought it was a joke," Perkins said Thursday. "We had some friends over and I questioned them if they had done it and they said, 'Absolutely not.' "
Cpl. L'Jean McKneely, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department, said officers went to the University House apartment complex, located in the 700 block of W. Chimes Street, around 9 p.m. Wednesday after Perkins contacted them.
"We don't have a file yet but we are looking into it," McKneely said. "We're going to see if we could get video and reach out the community."
Perkins, who writes for the university's student newspaper The Daily Reveille, suspects their apartment was targeted because of her politically-charged columns and because she’s been outspoken on social media about race-related issues at LSU.
Perkins stirred up controversy last year when she claimed on Twitter that someone had hung a noose from a tree on campus as an offensive joke. University officials later determined what Perkins believed to be a noose was actually loose electrical wiring that got caught in the tree.
In a tweet Perkins posted Nov. 12, 2015, she responded, "I was wrong, it was a wire that fell. But if black students were more accepted here, I wouldn't have thought a noose."
Perkins’ mother, Andrea Perkins, said she contacted federal officials on Thursday and the FBI has promised to look into the incident involving the ghost decoration.
In his response to her tweet about the vandalized ghost decoration, King told Perkins her safety and security is a top priority for the university and that LSU won't tolerate that kind of behavior.
"University House is a privately-owned, off-campus property outside of LSU's control, but does not mean LSU cannot take action," King posted in a message to Perkins on Twitter. "If the culprit is not a student, we will contact the district attorney for swift action. If an LSU student did this, they will be prosecuted under the Student Code of Conduct, with ramifications including expulsion."
Perkins said after meeting with King Thursday morning that she was "extremely pleased" with his response. King pledged to help Perkins and her roommates relocate to other lodgings if she doesn't want to live at University House anymore.
LSU students make up about 90 percent of the complex's population but very few minorities live there, Perkins said.