AMES, Iowa — With a bachelor’s degree in geo sciences and engineering from Minnesota State University and his master’s in higher education from Iowa State University, Neo Thurston Jr. thought he had proven to be more than just his skin color. “We should not be judged by the color of our skin but certainly by the content of our character,” said Thurston.
On Saturday, the Miami, Florida native and residence hall director at Iowa State University, walked into his residential storage room and noticed hate speech including the n-word, spray painted on his floor, water heater and shelving unit. Thurston said, “Messages that were directed and targeted toward the black community. Hateful messages towards the black community.”
The ISU Police launched an investigation and by Tuesday charged 18 year old Nathan Page, who admitted to the crime, with criminal trespass with vandalism and 3rd and 4th degree criminal mischief. “I certainly was not rejoicing. I was unhappy because for me having a student arrested on any day is not my goal,” Thurston said.
Investigators say they used evidence from electronic access key cards to identify page as a suspect in Roberts Hall. A shirt Page was wearing on the surveillance video was found in the Iowa State staffer’s storage room. Investigators say Page also spray painted and carved the initials “NP” into the victim’s television. “As a black person in America these instances aren’t only singled to me or to the community I live in but we all experience these incidents so it is important we all get in the fight.”
The vandalism struck deep and forgiveness won’t come easy for Neo. “Forgiveness is the ethic of care and is a tenet that I would love to espouse but at this time I am still processing that and how that would look with this individual,” said Thurston.
Spending his young twenty-nine year old life trying to bring diversity through his education, Neo hopes this will not only educate the 18 year old suspect but others on campus as well. Thurston said, “How do we as higher education officials, how do we as diversity inclusion officers continue to engage in this work to inform our staff and students to continue so when they leave, as the Iowa State mission states, go out and be better global citizens.”
The university says it is working with the story county attorney on the possiblity of enhanced or additional charges.