It is with dismay that we at the Record once again find ourselves publishing an editorial to address an act of bigotry. The removal and defacement of a Muslim graduate’s “I Am Williams” poster is a crime, and a disturbing reminder of the work our community still has before us.
First, we would like to thank the administration for quickly informing the campus that the poster had been defaced. We also appreciate the subsequent e-mails from President Falk and Dean Bolton for promising to keep us aware of the situation as it develops.
We at the Record, however, wonder whether the choice to omit details regarding the manner of the poster’s defacing was a wise decision on the part of the administration. While we understand the reasons for not publicizing the particulars of the case so early in the investigation, it is possible that this act of omission has complicated the process of healing. The defacing of the poster included the gouging of the featured individual’s eyes and the cutting of the throat, as well as a cross etched into the figure’s forehead. Some of these details, which highlight the extreme violence of the act, were not revealed in any of the administration’s e-mails. While some students have found out through other means, most of the student body remained ignorant of the heinous nature of this crime. We at the Record believe that this crime should be addressed as a safety concern. In order for our community to respond appropriately as we move forward, we believe the student body needs more information. This includes the need for continued updates on the investigation as it unfolds.
We would like to commend the Muslim Ephs for their response. By reaching out to the entire student body and inviting us all to share in the celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Ephs reminded us of what makes this community great, and of the beauty and solidarity to be found in one another’s traditions. We also thank the chaplains and staff members for being prepared and making themselves available to students, and Dean Bolton for sending an all-campus e-mail to amplify this invitation, which strengthened attendance on Saturday morning and included people from all reaches of the community.
This criminal act reminds us that bigotry is ever-present at the College, and it is important for us all to remember that it does not only manifest itself through vandalism. We will need to take steps forward in the future to encourage healing and to reduce the chances both of recurrences of this kind of atrocious act and of more subtle but pervasive forms of prejudice. This includes continuous evaluation of what it means to be a member of this community.
Institutional memory at an undergraduate college can be brief. Members of the class of 2015 were freshmen when the College community was shaken by a hateful act of vandalism in Prospect House. This spring, they will graduate, taking with them most of the memory of a campus that came together to contend with the horror of that crime. As we face another bias incident, we at the Record urge our fellow students not to let these crimes fade from the memory of this place. After all, they cannot be scrubbed from its history.
These individual crimes are part of a larger narrative that continues off campus. They are part of a reality, to which none in this community can claim exception. It is easy to say that bigotry occurs everywhere, but if we are to combat it, we must be willing to ask harder questions and to demand better answers. Though the world outside this valley often seems to tend toward chaos, one thing is certain: we at the College cannot be complacent. We must keep trying to live up to a higher standard. We can be better than this.