The Air Force Academy in Colorado is investigating an incident in which racial slurs were written on the dormitory message boards of five African-American cadets at the Academy’s Preparatory School.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the cadets awoke Tuesday to find "Go Home" followed by a racial epithet scrawled on message boards outside their rooms. Sources at the academy said there appeared to be a single vandal involved, judging by the handwriting.
Those who wrote the slurs could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.
The preparatory school gives cadet candidates a year of rigorous tutoring so they can meet the academy's strict academic standards. Traditionally, more than half of the students at the prep school are recruited athletes.
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, gathered cadets, faculty, staff and others Thursday to condemn the action.
“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Silveria said. “That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA and has no place in the United States Air Force.”
Silveria urged cadets to recognize the value of diversity.
“It’s the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing,” he said. “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful."
Those who don't embrace diversity, Silveria said, don't belong in the Air Force.
"If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
Silveria, who took command at the school in August, told cadets when he assumed the job that treating others with dignity and respect was essential. “If you want to find a red line with me, it will be in the area of respect and dignity.”