Actress Jenna Fischer visited Indiana’s DePauw University on Tuesday to discuss her career and her new book, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, with students. But not long after the event began, students began to protest, voicing serious concerns over their safety at the university.
About 15 minutes into Fischer’s lecture, an audience member stood up and blew a whistle, according to the IndyStar. Around 100 students, some of whom held protest signs, filled the aisles of the auditorium and began shouting concerns in reference to several recent incidents on campus.
According to the paper, on April 11, a racist and threatening message in a men’s bathroom stall sparked an on-campus investigation, which led to a response from DePauw University President Mark McCoy.
In his letter to members of the university community, McCoy listed three other incidents under investigation, including “a homophobic and an anti-Semitic message” found in a bathroom on campus, “an incident of a student engaging in offensive behavior” (reportedly wearing blackface) at the bar, grill, and event center The Fluttering Duck, and “the n-word formed by rocks in the nature park.”
“Oftentimes justice requires disruption and interruption of our scheduled lives.”
In video footage shared by event attendee Shannon Samson, students display their signs and yell, “It’s not a joke,” “Stop excusing this problematic behavior,” and “Don’t give them protection when they’re attacking us.”
After DePauw University spokesperson Ken Owen asked to continue the event, promising they would take questions, Fischer told the audience, “It’s not okay.”
“In my personal opinion, oftentimes justice requires disruption and interruption of our scheduled lives,” Fischer can be heard saying in the video. “I don’t know what to say except that I’m so sorry.”
The actress, who was reportedly made aware of recent events before she took the stage, tweeted a letter on Wednesday to offer the student protesters her additional support.
“The student protesters spoke about their experiences and the hate they have been encountering. I could feel the pain, sadness, and fear coming from these students,” Fischer shared on Twitter. “…These students need to be heard and they need change.”
Fischer went on to say that the students had inspired her to donate her speaking fee from DePauw University to the NAACP, The Anti-Defamation League, and the Trevor Project in their names.
“My hope is for all people to be respected, accepted, and loved for their individuality and uniqueness,” she wrote. “And above all, to be safe.”
In the letter to students, President McCoy vowed, “Make no mistake, we will take every action available to us to address these incidents,” noting that the investigations will continue.