Students discovered racial slurs and several drawings of male genitalia on the walls and doors of Williams Hall E early Saturday morning. The word “nigger” was written on two second-floor common room door signs and on the door sign of the nearby custodian’s office. A Security investigation is ongoing.
The first racial slur posting was found at around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, when a resident of the entry found “nigger” written on a white board on the landing between the first and second floors. No additional vandalism was reported until Williams E JA, Richard McDowell ’09 discovered the marked signs on the second floor around 9:15 a.m.
“I found and removed the signs in the morning when I woke up,” said McDowell, who placed the posters in his room and called Security roughly an hour later.
Meanwhile, residents of the entry saw the penises drawn on some of the entry’s walls. According to McDowell, the drawn penises could not be erased and remained on the walls all weekend.
All of the vandalism was done in permanent marker, which has led some residents of the entry to believe that the incidents are related. One resident said, “Everywhere there was the word ‘nigger’ there was also a penis,” signaling the likelihood of a single perpetrator.
The resident, an occupant of one of the tagged suites, was not convinced that the slurs were personally directed. He said that while there were two African-American students whose doors were drawn on, those doors also belonged to Caucasian students, in addition to the third door that belonged solely to a Caucasian custodian. “That obviously is no excuse,” the resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “It just means that this might not have been directed at any particular people.”
Following McDowell’s call on Saturday morning, Security, in conjunction with the Dean’s Office, has been investigating the incident. On Sunday, Security and the Dean’s Office met with 20 residents of the entry for questioning. Jean Thorndike, director of campus security, declined to comment on which students had been questioned, within or outside of the entry.
Thorndike confirmed the ongoing search, but offered no specifics or timetable for its completion. “Searches like this can go on for a long time, depending on what kind of information we get,” she said. Thorndike stressed the importance of the anonymous tipline, and said it may prove essential to the investigation. “Students never want to turn other students in,” she said. “But if it can be completely untraceable and anonymous, maybe we’ll get something.”
On Saturday evening, Dean Merrill informed students of the incident in an all-campus email, stating that the College had begun investigating and that the Williamstown Police Department had been notified.
Merrill also expressed concern for the campus’ sense of community and trust. “Such behavior clearly violates our standards of conduct on campus,” she wrote. “It also fundamentally attacks our sense of community and the bonds of trust we aspire to build among all members of the college.”
College Council co-presidents Morgan Goodwin ’08 and Kim Dacres ’08 followed with an all-campus email on Sunday afternoon. They detailed a few specifics of the incident and reiterated a sense of concern. In addition, Goodwin and Dacres invited students to share their “stories” of similar incidents. “We want to engage the campus and ask, what can we do, both structurally and on a very informal level to foster respect and protect our community against harm,” they wrote.
That night, Williams E addressed the incident at entry snacks. According to McDowell, entry residents did not share a belief that anyone had been directly targeted by the racial slurs. “Everyone thought it was silly,” he said. “They didn’t see it as directly attacking anyone, but some were obviously more affected.”