Offensive Graffiti at Our College

I learned last week that we had an incident at our school with someone writing an anti-Semitic and sexist comment in one of our dorms.  I had a conversation with the Dean of Student Life about it. The RA and Head Resident Assistant were apparently alerted that the comment that was written on or near the door of a student.  The comment was taken down within four to five hours after being written. Campus Safety has been unable to identify who wrote this comment, because apparently their cameras don’t face the correct way to be able to identify the person.

I have a few thoughts about this.  This is obviously very upsetting, but also very pertinent to what we have talked about in class in the Harwood et al. article about microaggressions in residence halls.  Students in this article in reported microaggressions that were written in the halls and in various places on the campus.  This led to them reporting feelings of being unsafe or unwelcome.

I think that the students in this dorm, and everyone on campus, should be talked to further about this issue.  The parallels to the article are obvious, but also people should understand the implications of what they say or write.  Although they may not know whom this insult was directed at, it was clearly offensive and I would like to know more about how the school handled it afterward.  I would hope that the staff would not invalidate the feelings of students involved, like in the Harwood et al. article.

I also feel that, although there were several resources and places to discuss this incident in the email sent regarding it, the counseling center is limited in it’s abilities to have conversations about such events.  I have talked with various people of color who say that the lack of faculty of color causes them to feel less comfortable having these conversations.  I wish there were other available resources to allow everyone to feel comfortable, and that allowed all voices to be heard.

What I have to ask is, what is the best way to handle this situation?  And do students feel that they were adequately debriefed about the issue?  Should Campus Safety have a more active role in helping to identify this suspect and how would that help? I also realize that the equipment Campus Safety has to work with is limited and their access to new ones is limited by lack of funds.

4 thoughts on “Offensive Graffiti at Our College

  1. I think that it’s oftentimes really hard for people to realize that hateful others exist in the world until it hits close-to-home. I also think that this should have been a wakeup call for Muhlenberg, and I would really have liked to see an open conversation take place, being that we are a school in which 30% of the student body identifies as being Jewish. It makes me worry about other hateful students seeing this as something that is acceptable in the future.

  2. It was definitely shocking to hear of this hate crime especially at a university that has a reputation of having all “nice” and “accepting” students. Hate is everywhere and that is the reality even on a campus like ours. It’s a difficult situation because Campus Safety is only able to do so much. If the act was not caught on camera, there is nothing they can do and this hateful person will unfortunately get away with the crime. I think we need to hold more campus meetings to discuss important issues like these rather than relying on email.

  3. When I heard about the situation with the graffiti I was in shock. We hear about anti-semitism at other schools but never did I ever believe that this would happen at my school where the student body is 30% Jewish. Being Jewish, I have always been constantly aware of my surroundings and anything having to do with Judaism and have always told everyone that there isn’t anti-semitism on my campus. Clearly, I was being ignorant or naive because we are a college campus and unfortunately there are always issues surrounding anti-semitism, racism, sexism, etc. I think that you connected the article on microagressions in residential halls perfectly with this situation. I agree that the resources were very limited and that there were many individuals who were unaware of the situation at the time. I think greater transparency would be a great option and a more descriptive analysis for the campus community. In addition, I think that while I do not believe our campus has anti-semitism or sexism, these were clear signs that needed to be addressed.

  4. I think the entire campus is figuring out how to deal with incidents of hate & bias. From my understanding, the new policy aims for transparency – that means we get an email every time an incident occurs. My gut feeling is that since this is a new policy and because this is the first time we are hearing about incidents such as these, campus safety and other institutions have never really had a defined role as to what their expectations are. I hope that this new policy might guide the college to answering those questions, but I honestly don’t know. I think that there should be follow up with the student that reported it, the building’s residents, etc to make sure the campus community knows it is unacceptable. Hopefully, if students see how interested we are in reducing these incidents, they will take their language more seriously and speak before they act.

What do you think? Join the conversation!