ECSU responds to claims it removed its majority Black students to house officers

The HBCU said officers weren't staying in student dorm spaces. Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon noted the community's "pain and frustration."

Elizabeth City State University, the historically-Black college in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, sent its students home last Sunday in anticipation of a state of emergency around potential protests against the police shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr. 

“City officials realize there may potentially be a period of civil unrest within the city following the public release of that footage,” Mayor Bettie Parker said, according to NPR, earlier this week. 

“I believe justice will prevail in Elizabeth City,” Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon said last week. “I believe our demands for transparency and accountability will ultimately be met.” (ECSU)

The news that ECSU students were being sent home — and misinformation that police officers from other districts would be quartering in dorm rooms at the university — quickly spread online. 

“Headlines: An HBCU kicks out students with less than a 48-hour notice due to black people protesting because a police officer killed a black man and proceeds to move in officers in the dorms in 24 hours. #ECSU,” one user wrote in a tweet that was widely shared. 

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A student of the university wrote: “ECSU stressed out their students and our families by putting us out with less than 48 hours notice during our final week of classes for the same people that would shoot one of their students dead without thinking twice…” 

However, the university released a statement Wednesday claiming the dorms formerly occupied by students are not the same rooms these officers are staying in, and the space was being provided in response to requests from city leaders. It was shared on the ECSU Facebook page. 

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“ECSU provided previously empty residence hall space to help house officers from other jurisdictions who are assisting local police,” it reads. “We are doing the best we can to support our community during this difficult time, working to ensure that citizens can exercise their first amendment right to protest safely and peacefully. As a public University, ECSU has an obligation to support other public agencies in times of need, just as we count on their help when the campus makes a request.” 

“None of the rooms being used were previously occupied by students,” it continues. “The decision to close residence halls made on Sunday was made in anticipation of the City of Elizabeth City declaring a state of emergency on Monday morning.” 

The statement noted that the university supports the community’s right to peacefully protest. It referenced quotes from ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon, who said earlier Wednesday, “We teach our students to prize truth. We teach our students to strive for honesty and justice. We teach our students to be brave in service to others. Those are hard values to live out, even in the best of times.”

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“But those are the values I see shining through in this hard moment for the City of Elizabeth City,” Dixon said in her statement. “The pain and frustration in our community run deep. The family of Andrew Brown lost a loved one. Our community lost a citizen in a tragic incident. Our entire region now bears the weight of national scrutiny, of shared mourning, of fear at what comes next. After a year of so much heartache and loss, it feels like too much. It is too much.”

The university’s statement concluded with a quote from Dixon’s remarks, in which she said: “The peaceful raising of voices, the firm call for justice, the insistence that the institutions of society must work on behalf of all citizens — those are the actions of a great city, a great people.”

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