Spitting incident leads to administrative leave, more action requested

An architect in Facilities Management recently found himself at the center of a strange attack: via a dash camera, he caught a coworker spitting on his car. This was only the beginning of the story surrounding the incident.

Patrick Long, the victim of this attack, said he wanted to be certain of what happened before he went to the police.

“I still don’t really know what started it. Something was showing up on the hood of my vehicle in maybe early June or late May. I didn’t think much about it until it just kept showing up. I even moved my car to different spots and it kept happening,” Long said. “I took a more proactive approach and got a camera to see what was going on. Then, on the morning of July 17, I went out after work and found a video showing one of my coworkers spitting on my vehicle.”

Long said this was entirely uncalled for, and he was especially concerned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[Due to the pandemic,] all of us are dealing with a situation where we aren’t supposed to be spreading bodily fluids like that,” Long said. “I went to the [SIUE] Police Department, …  and I showed an officer the video, and what was on my car. I hadn’t cleaned it off yet, and he said ‘Yeah, that’s what happened here.’ I posted [the video] on my Facebook, and you can see that it happens quick.”

Long believes the spitting happened either because of his race, or his seniority. Long is Black, and the perpetrator, Michael Grandy, another architect in Facilities Management, is white. 

“In Facilities Management, there are only two Black employees: myself and one other,” Long said. “[Grandy] gave a statement to the police where he said he didn’t do it because of race, but he didn’t give any other reason either, which is suspicious.”

Shortly after showing the video to the police, Long attended a meeting of Brothers Breaking BREAD, an organization for fellowship among Black men on campus. This meeting was also attended by Black Faculty and Staff Association President J.T. Snipes. At the meeting, Long told his story, and Snipes was very interested.

“Brothers Breaking BREAD is a space where we, as Black men across campus, can just talk about our lives and catch up with each other,” Snipes said. “I didn’t know all of the exact details at the time, but [Long] just let us know that it was hard for him … [Later,] I reached out to him, and said, ‘What can we do? This is unacceptable.’ I do have somewhat of a larger platform as president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, so I was happy to use that group to support him, because that’s what it’s for.”

Snipes said the lack of diversity that Long expressed is something that is common in jobs in higher education.

“As a person who is part of a minoritized group in the United States, you get used to, well I don’t know if you get used to it, but you persistently encounter being one, or one of a few in the workplace, especially in higher education,” Snipes said.

Snipes was able to use his position for support when Grandy was charged with disorderly conduct and put on administrative leave without pay. The Black Faculty and Staff Association detailed in a statement sent to Chancellor Randy Pembrook why they believed this disciplinary action could have been stricter.

“We believe these charges do not go far enough. There is sufficient video evidence of Mr. Grandy spitting on Mr. Long’s vehicle during a pandemic of a novel coronavirus that resides in respiratory droplets,” the letter said. “Therefore, this act was not only a degradation of Mr. Long’s personal property, but an act of racial animus that may have increased his exposure COVID-19, as Mr. Grandy admitted to performing this act several times.”

Regardless of Grandy’s punishment, Long had other troubles to deal with. According to Long, one of the more annoying instances of this situation was an inaccurate retelling of his conversations with the police during a webinar of the Anti-Racism Task Force .

“My name was brought up during an Anti-Racism webinar, although it wasn’t supposed to be. I was not supposed to be the focus of that meeting, but my incident was discussed anyway. When I first made the charge, the officer I talked to told me I needed to make an email to my supervisor so that he’d know what was happening. In that email, I copied the Chancellor, [Associate Chancellor for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion Venessa Brown], and the head of HR. I told them what happened, told them I thought this was race-related and expressed concern for my health and safety,” Long said. “It was stated at the webinar that I didn’t think it was race-based, and that it was something the Black Faculty and Staff Association had mentioned that first.”

SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll was the individual who misquoted Long. According to Schmoll, Long didn’t cite race as a reason for this crime in the first report, though he did later.

“When the victim made the initial report with the SIUE PD there was no reference to race or feelings this was done because of race.  The second time we interviewed the victim was when he indicated he felt this was done because of his race,” Schmoll said. “Our investigation could not prove this was a hate crime and the offender was charged with disorderly conduct.”

Schmoll said he was proud of his officers’ handling of the situation, and was happy to help Long find justice.

“My officers did a very good job on this investigation working with the victim and bringing it to a conclusion with disorderly conduct charges.  We will not accept these types of incidents occurring at SIUE,” Schmoll said. “For the SIUE Police Department, the safety of our students, staff, faculty and guests is our top priority.”

Long said although this has been a difficult situation for him, he is relieved it was not as serious as it could have been.

“I’m grateful that I wasn’t shot at or physically attacked, but I still hope nothing like this happens to anyone else,” Long said.

Both Pembrook and Director of Human Resources Robert Thumith declined to comment on the matter.

For more information, read the Black Faculty and Staff Association’s letter to the chancellor.

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