Campus addresses vandalism incident

Two students are undergoing disciplinary proceedings after vandalizing their friend’s dorm room door early last Thursday morning, according to an email that Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent to all students on Sunday. The dean’s office knew of the incident on Thursday afternoon, after the students turned themselves in, Sandstrom said in an email to the Record.

With paint, one of the students wrote “I like beer” on the door, and the other “painted a swastika, and then quickly covered it with more paint to make it illegible,” said the email, which Sandstrom, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes and Vice President for Campus Life Stephen Klass all signed. The students removed the paint, and the latter student reported the incident, the email said. Administrators began the disciplinary process in accordance with the College’s Code of Conduct, and college officials have also been in discussion with some of the students most affected by the incident, Sandstrom, Haynes and Klass wrote.

Because “none of the people directly involved felt targeted” on identity-based grounds, the College initially investigated the incident without informing the wider student body, according to the email. However, several Junior Advisors (JAs) reported incomplete and troubling rumors about the vandalism spreading among students, so administrators felt compelled to notify students of the nature of the incident, the email said.

The JAs expressed concern because “while the incident itself was very localized, some students were aware of bits and pieces of what occurred – including the fact that a swastika had been painted,” Sandstrom told the Record. “In the absence of any other information (that the perpetrator was known and had turned themselves in, or that there was no ongoing threat), students were concerned about the intensely offensive nature of the behavior.” Thus administrators decided to fully inform students of the incident and the response.

“We have no basis for thinking the incident points to an ongoing threat,” despite current events such as those in Charlottesville, Va., Sandstrom, Haynes and Klass added in their email.

The vandalism is being considered particularly seriously because of the use of the swastika, no matter the intent, the email said. The vandalism “shows a lack of sensitivity to how that symbol has been used as a weapon of intimidation and hatred, both historically and in recent incidents around the country,” the email said.

As part of administrators’ response to the incident, their “conversations with affected students thus far have ranged from supportive to disciplinary, depending on their role or the impact of the incident,” Sandstrom said. “It’s typical for these conversations to be ongoing and to take place across several different offices to whom students turn for comfort and advice in their daily lives.” In addition to continuing these personal discussions with students, College officials “will help to organize any programming or resources that students might find helpful in the days to come,” Sandstrom said.