Racial slurs start campus inquiry

The search for the perpetrators of the recent racist postings in Williams Hall E continues under the joint jurisdiction of Campus Safety and Security and the Dean’s Office. While initially confined to residents of Williams E, where the word “nigger” and several drawings of male genitalia were scrawled, the investigation has expanded to include interviews with over 30 students, some of whom live outside the entry.

“[The investigation] has been progressing well in the sense that a lot of interviews have been conducted,” said Dean Merrill, who has not been directly involved with the investigation but has “kept a close watch” over the situation. The student interviews, which represent the majority of the administrative proceedings thus far, are being conducted by Dave Boyer, associate director of Security, along with Dean Charles Toomajian and Dean Gina Coleman.

Merrill said that, while “no perpetrator has yet been identified,” the anonymous tip line has been active. Jean Thorndike, director of Security, said the investigation has received “one or two” leads that are currently being explored.

The incident in question took place on Feb. 2 in Williams E, when “nigger” was found written on two common room door signs and on the door sign of the nearby custodian’s office. There were also several penises drawn on the walls in the stairwell.

Richard McDowell ’09, one of the junior advisors for Williams E, discovered the defaced signs on Saturday morning, removed them and called Security around 10:00 am. Meanwhile, students saw the penises, which were drawn directly onto the walls and could not be removed until Monday. All of the writing and drawings were scrawled in permanent marker, leading residents of Williams E to assume they were related.

Two African-American students lived in the suites that had been marked by the racial slurs, but those same doors belonged to Caucasian students. The custodian whose door was marked is also a Caucasian.

On Friday, President Schapiro addressed the campus in a series of e-mails, in which he decried the use of racial slurs and called the community to action in increasingly direct and urgent terms. “They’re hurtful, damaging, and offensive,” he wrote in reference to racist incidents on campus in his second e-mail. “They’re unacceptable. They must stop.”

In that same e-mail, Schapiro described another incident that occurred after one of three open meetings in Paresky where students, faculty and staff gathered to discuss discrimination on campus. Two professors, who had participated in the meeting, later overheard a conversation among six students that included the casual use of the word “nigger” outside Paresky. The faculty members confronted the students and then reported the incident to the administration.

This announcement came on the heels of rumors of another event, possibly involving a fight and the use of racial slurs that occurred in Prospect less than an hour before Williams E was vandalized. Jean Thorndike, director of security, confirmed that there was a confrontation in Prospect “that led to shoving,” but declined to offer any further details.

Merrill expressed concern with the confrontation. “We’re looking into whether there’s a relationship between it and the incident that sparked the investigation to begin with,” she said. As of yet, no disciplinary proceedings have begun against any students.

The faculty and president’s staff will convene today in a closed meeting to discuss the series of incidents and potential courses of action.

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