On Saturday morning, two students vandalized Griffin Hall to bring attention to the potential impact of the presidential election on campus.
The students poured a red wood-stain substance resembling blood down the main stairwell of Griffin Hall and wrote “AMKKK KILL” in the stairwell. In addition, the perpetrators splattered the stain substance around the lobby outside of Griffin 3.
The vandalism was discovered by a visitor to campus, who had been inside the Thompson Memorial Chapel. After leaving the chapel, the visitor wanted to see the inside of Griffin Hall and discovered what he thought was blood upon entering the building through the main entrance on the South side. The visi-tor immediately contacted the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) at noon on Saturday and both the WPD and Campus Safety and Security (CSS), which was contacted by the WPD, responded.
Griffin, normally locked during non-academic hours, was unlocked on Saturday morning due to a local organization’s training session which had been planned to take place in one of the classrooms. The training was cancelled and no one from the organization entered the building.
In his campus-wide email on Monday morning, President Adam Falk described the rationale for not informing the campus community on the same day as the vandalism was discovered.
“Police determined that the vandalism, while abhorrent, did not create an immediate danger, nor did it constitute a specific threat toward any individuals or groups,” Falk said. “Had there been a confirmed threat to our community we would have communicated with you about it immediately.”
The email was also signed by Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Leticia Haynes, Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass and Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom.
Media Relations Director Mary Dettloff described the WPD’s classification process. “The [WPD] classified it as vandalism because they would need to have established intent with the actual person who committed the crime in custody to classify it as anything more serious, given the lack of explicit targeted individual or group,” Dettloff said.
Both WPD and CSS officers were outside of Griffin on Saturday. The Record contacted Director of CSS David Boyer on Saturday afternoon, but received no response.
WPD and CSS began an investigation on Saturday, and the WPD notified the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. CSS interviewed over 40 individuals as part of the investigation.
In his first email, Falk recognized the possible connection between the incident and the tense climate on campus after Donald Trump’s election.
“In the current post-election climate, we have a heightened awareness for any actions or expressions that may be bias incidents,” Falk said.
On Monday night, Falk sent a second campus-wide email in which he reported that the investigation had identified two students soley responsible for the vandalism.
“The students told CSS that they had committed the vandalism to bring attention to the effects of the presidential election on many within our community,” Falk said.
According to Falk’s email, the students’ use of “AMKKK” was an alternative spelling of America used to reference racism in American society. The students said the vandalism was not committed with the intent to threaten according to Falk’s email.
The two students, whose identifies the College has not released, will face disciplinary action.
“Their actions did much more than damage property; they harmed our entire community and caused considerable fear, among students in particular,” Falk said. “We are deeply distressed that anyone in our community would feel compelled to express themselves in such a destructive and harmful way.”
At the end of his email, Falk encouraged students to reach out to support staff on campus. Sandstrom and College Council Co-Presidents Michelle Bal ’17 and Caitlin Buckley ’17 both sent emails early Monday evening reminding students of campus resources.
CSS does not plan to release operational or investigate details. There is no official report regarding the incident.