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IU student says she was racially discriminated against at Intramural Center


A screenshot from a video taken Feb. 2 at the Intramural Center. IU junior Taylor Carlton said she experienced a racial bias incident Feb. 2 after being repeatedly questioned about membership status at the Intramural Center. Courtesy Photo

An IU junior said she experienced a racial bias incident Feb. 2 at the Intramural Center. While playing basketball on the second floor, she said she and another person were asked by employees to identify themselves as students multiple times.

Taylor Carlton, who is black, said she, her boyfriend and little brother were approached by Intramural Center employees to check their IDs. She said a white student in the same part of the gym was not asked to do the same. She posted a video of the incident to Twitter later that day. 

In the video, two employees are seen arguing with Carlton and her boyfriend for about a minute before two more employees walk up. The employees, Carlton and her boyfriend continue to argue for another minute before Carlton's boyfriend ends the video.

“What made it seem suspicious was that the staff member who scanned our IDs originally chased us from the first floor of the Intramural Center,” Carlton said. “If our IDs needed to be scanned, the person on the second floor should have done so.” 

Carlton said she hadn’t been asked for her ID on the second floor basketball court before, but she complied anyway. When she was talking with the employees, Carlton told them she was concerned she was being discriminated against because she is black.

“We are aware of the incident and Rec Sports has reached out to the student, but as of now a formal complaint has not been filed,” IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said in an email. “We would encourage the student to reach out to report so that it can be fully investigated.”

Jacqueline Puterbaugh, associate director for Campus Recreational Sports, said the Intramural Center is aware of the situation and is still investigating. 

Checking IDs is standard Intramural Center policy and is meant to ensure the facilities are used by people paying to use them, Puterbaugh said. 

She said employees are stationed in the main activity areas to check IDs. These areas include the 10 basketball courts and track, swimming pool, strength gym and upstairs cardio gym. 

“Participants are required to show an ID, and the rationale behind that is students are paying a mandatory fee each year,” Puterbaugh said. “Since students are required to pay a fee, that non-students are identified and have to buy a membership."

After being asked a first time and then continuing to use the gym, Carlton noticed that two more employees entered the area. She said the employees walked around the gym and messed with a curtain before approaching her and asking to scan her ID. 

“She came off as very aggressive from the beginning,” Carlton said of one employee. 

Carlton said she asked why she had to scan her ID a second time. She said they gave her conflicting answers — one said it was the new policy and another said it’s what they’ve always done.

“I felt they were intimidated by me, which I don’t understand because I am a 5 foot 4 inch girl,” Carlton said.

Carlton said she and the staff couldn’t reach an understanding. Soon after a manager was called over, Carlton, her boyfriend and little brother left the gym. 

“When she started yelling for the manager quickly, I felt she would call the cops on me,” Carlton said. “I have a black boyfriend and a black little brother and I didn’t want to put them in a potentially dangerous situation.” 

Carlton said she didn't submit a bias report about the incident.

"I felt me doing it is not going to stop anything from happening," Carlton said. "Nobody will be reprimanded. I feel like my statement on Twitter speaks for itself, and I don't have anything else to say."

IU’s Director of Bias Response Cedric Harris said when situations like these arise, students are encouraged to submit a bias incident report on One.IU. He said reporting doesn’t always lead to an immediate action depending on the circumstances, but every incident report is valuable.

Harris said similar incidents have not been reported to the Dean of Students office in the past, but more reports help him give him administrators a clearer picture of the campus climate.

“The more people report, the more evidence there is to tell a story in student experiences on campus,” Harris said. "So that the president and vice provost can know that this is happening and try to make the climate a better and more workable place."

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