Last month, University of Nevada, Reno, police made a controversial traffic stop during which an officer joked about shooting a graduate student. Now that student is speaking out. Our reporter Jacob Solis has the story.
In a statement released Tuesday, graduate student Kevin McReynolds, who is black, says the university is “more concerned with the appearance of diversity rather than” ensuring the safety of minority students.
Adam Wilson, the UNR police officer who made the comment, remains on administrative leave.
President Marc Johnson responded publicly to McReynolds, saying that the actions and language used do not represent the university’s values, and that there’s still work to be done.
"As University President, I again offer my sincere apologies to Kevin McReynolds," Johnson said. "I’ve met with Kevin and his father about the traffic stop. The actions and language of the University officers do not reflect the University’s values. We still have much work to do if we are to become the place we hope to be. Our goal is to be an inclusive campus where all of our students, faculty and staff feel safe."
The stop has become one in a series of incidents that has drawn increased attention to the school’s diversity efforts. That includes the appearance of a student at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, and the tagging of several swastikas inside the fine arts building earlier this month.
Below is McReynolds' statement in full:
My name is Kevin McReynolds and I am an MBA student at the University of Nevada Reno. I am a small business owner. I am a student-athlete, a son, an avid weight lifter, and a mentor. I am also a 6’4”, 330 pound black man. At 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 24, I was reminded of the order in which my community sees me by Officer Adam Wilson who at a routine traffic stop laughingly told me “I’m just going to shoot him if this goes sideways because fuck that.” On the campus that I call home, my life was threatened by a police officer for being too big and too black. But I know I’m not alone. Evidenced by the university’s tepid response to my incident as well as many other similar incidences, I feel there is a systemic racial inclusivity problem at UNR. I believe my experience shows that UNR is more concerned with the appearance of diversity than actually assuring the safety of minority students on campus.
I first reported the incident at 3 a.m. Sunday when I returned home for the evening. Later Sunday morning, my report was forwarded to Patricia Richard who is Chief Diversity Officer and was told that Equal Opportunity and Title IX Director Denise Cordova would reach out to me. When I did not hear back from her by Monday morning, I decided to be proactive and called Ms. Cordova’s office at 9:48 a.m. I was rebuffed by an assistant who promised I’d receive a call later that day, a call I never received. I then went to the police station to report the incident. The assistant requested I leave the station, stated that no superior could meet with me, and that I could find a form online. Frustrated and disappointed, I resorted to calling the UNR police on duty phone and requested to speak with Commander Garcia or Assistant Commander Renwick whom I knew through my time on the UNR Football team. Assistant Commander Renwick called me back shortly after and out of courtesy, he scheduled a meeting with me for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, a meeting where we learned the detail that changed everything: there was a dash-cam video.
By noon Tuesday my phone was ringing off the hook. I received carefully worded calls from Chief Diversity Officer Patricia Richard, Title IX Coordinator Denise Cordova, and even President Marc Johnson. While I appreciated their kind words, their calls felt like carefully choreographed damage control. Each call danced further and further from the unavoidable fact that a white police officer threatened the life of an unarmed black student. Each assured me that the language was incongruent with university values, but during the past year, I watched a Charlottesville white supremacist welcomed back to campus and saw swastikas painted in an art building. I believe that my incident was downplayed then treated as an inappropriate apparition because kind words are easier than the hard questions and hard choices the UNR administration needs to make.
I brought these concerns to President Johnson in a series of letters that spoke to my fears as a minority student and how I hoped to play a positive role in the campus community moving forward. He offered a number of campus and faculty diversity initiatives as evidence of the university’s commitment to diversity. But having a diverse campus does not mean having a safe campus. More minorities on campus can’t change the fact that the last black UNR police officer retired two years ago. More black and brown professors won’t make a Jewish student unsee swastikas. Campus safe spaces don’t protect you from attending class with a potentially violent white supremacist. What will it take for UNR to turn its politically correct rhetoric into action? Why won’t the university do more to ensure minority students feel safe on campus? Are minority students a priority at all?
It has now been a month since the incident and Officer Wilson remains on paid leave. And with a slew of empty apologies in hand, I’m expected to return to campus like everything is normal. Is it?