Ten black students were stopped by police in a St Louis suburb and wrongly accused of leaving an IHOP restaurant without paying, Washington University officials say.
The group was reportedly approached at a Metrolink station at around 12.30am July 8 after a late-night dinner by Clayton police who told them they were suspected of dining and dashing.
Despite the fact that several of the students offered receipts as proof of their payment, the officers made them turn around and walk three blocks back to the eatery while six squad cars followed behind them.
Back at the IHOP, a manager confirmed that the incoming freshmen were not the four patrons who’d left without paying their $62 bill.
Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for student transition and engagement, called the incident ‘a humiliating experience’ in an email to other school administrators last week.
Wild added that given how minor the crime was, it’s ‘confusing why they were forced to walk back and detained for such a long time’.
Washington University released a public statement about the incident on Monday.
‘We are deeply concerned and disappointed that anyone — certainly any of our students — would experience what transpired,’ Jill Friedman, vice chancellor for public affairs, said.
‘The fact that these 10 students, all of whom are African American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us.
‘We have shared that sentiment directly with the City of Clayton and have had an opportunity to meet with city leaders to reiterate our concerns.
‘Conversations continue and we are hopeful that our students will hear directly from the City of Clayton with both an explanation and an apology.’
The 10 unnamed individuals were on campus as part of a summer program aimed at preparing incoming students for upcoming coursework, specifically in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The university website says: ‘Students attending [the program] may be among the first in their family to attend college or coming from high schools with limited [advanced placement] offerings.
‘The intensive five-week academic program provides students the opportunity to earn seven college credits, make friends, become familiar with the campus and surrounding neighborhoods, and register early for fall courses before other first-year students.’
Wild, who is in charge of helping students adjust to university life, wrote: ‘This is obviously extremely disappointing. Not how any of us would like to welcome our new students.
‘Needless to say, the students were shaken and upset.’
Clayton Police Chief Kevin R Murphy has said the department had begun conducting an internal review even before university administrators complained.
‘Certainly, I’m sorry they were inconvenienced and anxious about what happened. That was not our intent,’ Murphy told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
The police chief disputed the claim that the group was followed by six cars, saying it was likely only four.
He also pointed out that there have been 45 reports of customers leaving the IHOP without paying this year alone, and that local officers are ‘duty bound’ to respond to reports.
Murphy said he met with school officials last week and has offered to meet with the students to apologize in person.
SOURCE: DailyMail, by MEGAN SHEETS