Campus events like “Midnight Breakfast” are meant to bring college students together and foster community — not to mention a chance to recharge with a free meal right before finals.
But students at Xavier, the historically black university in New Orleans, say they were sent running from their college’s latest “Midnight Breakfast” event early Tuesday morning after discovering someone was locking students inside gates in the campus building hosting the event, according to WWL-TV.
The campus police were waiting for anyone trying to make a getaway, the station reported.
“I was shocked,” Xavier student Bianca Houser told WDSU. “I was, like, let me get out of here. How do I get out of here? Trying to find exits and everything.”
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Other students said that during the panic to get out, they were told that they were being locked inside “to clean up their mess” from the event, according to the station. The cafeteria workers in the building had grown upset that some attendees did not clean dishes from their tables, but campus police officers were waiting for them as students tried to leave the building, the Advocate reported.
As students pushed their way out of a back exit, some were pepper sprayed, and others were detained, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Xavier vice president for student affairs Curtis Wright held a listening session on campus Tuesday for students affected by Tuesday morning’s events, where he and other university officials stressed that Xavier is still a safe space for students.
“I want to make an apology for what you witnessed, what some of you experienced and what some of you have heard about,” Wright said during the meeting. “This is not who we are, and this is not what we are about.”
University president Reynold Verret said in a statement that the reported treatment of students at the “Midnight Breakfast” event “does not reflect Xavier’s mission or legacy,” according to WWL-TV.
The university confirmed to the Times-Picayune that two campus police officers had been suspended after the reports of pepper spray being used on students, but Xavier has not identified those officers.
“How are we truly going to change the situation from happening again? How are we going to elicit competency as to these two officers, and how they should handle hectic situations like last night?” Xavier student Taylor Perry-Crawford said, according to WDSU. “It makes me feel unprotected.”