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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Incident Team reacts to bigoted vandalism

Racist remarks written on campaign materials supporting President Barack Obama on the third floor of Brown Hall in the Choates residential cluster were reported to Office of Pluralism and Leadership Director Alysson Satterlund Wednesday after being discovered by the building's custodial staff. Students said they were upset that an act of vandalism occurred but were unsure of specific details regarding the incident.

Interim College President Carol Folt alerted community members to the graffiti removed by the custodian in a campus-wide email on Thursday afternoon, writing that the College's Bias Incident Team is investigating the situation. The final outcome report will consist of information collected by a Safety and Security-led investigation, Satterlund said. In the email, Folt requested that those with information regarding the incident contact Safety and Security.

On Wednesday, the Bias Incident Team consisting of Director of Safety and Security and College Proctor Harry Kinne, Director of Residential Education Michael Wooten and Satterlund ensured that those impacted by the vandalism were safe, Satterlund said. Bias incidents differ from hate crimes because they cannot be prosecuted and handled through judicial processes.

Marina Villeneuve '13, the floor's undergraduate advisor, said she never saw the vandalism but was unsettled after hearing about the incident.

"As a UGA, it's just really concerning because my goal is to have a floor environment that's supportive and open and welcome to diversity," she said.

Satterlund called the bias incident hurtful and divisive, noting her disappointment that it occurred at the College.

"For all of us that are part of the Dartmouth community, these incidents are disheartening," she said. "That's why it's so important to eliminate these sorts of events."

On Tuesday, Choates Community Director Daniel Smith and OPAL will work with floor residents to process the event's impact on the community, according to Satterlund.

"We are really trying to create an opportunity where the responsible party will be accountable and make a public apology, engage in learning to become aware as to why these sorts of behaviors negatively impact the community and commit to giving back to the community in a positive way," she said.

Floor residents said they did not see the vandalism, are unsure of what happened and did not know an incident occurred until Safety and Security requested to interview them as part of the investigation.

Michelle Gil '16, who lives on the floor, said that while the incident is "horrible," she wishes the administration would be more forthcoming with information.

"If they are refusing to tell us what was written, where it was written, then none of us can understand the scope of the issue," she said.

Residents said they were surprised a bias incident occurred on their floor.

"We've been a good floor in terms of obeying rules," resident Olivia Samson '16 said.

A resident of another floor or residence hall may be responsible, according to Jenny Shou '16, who said non-residents often leave comments on residents' doors and white boards.

"It's just ignorance," she said. "It happens everywhere."

Afro-American Society President Nikkita McPherson '13 said in an email to The Dartmouth that she was not surprised by the bias incident.

"Acts of racism continue to plague this campus and undermine institutional progress as we still fail to properly address issues of inequality and the complementary misperceptions of each race," she said.

Despite their surprise and lack of knowledge regarding the event, residents of Brown's third floor expressed some concern.

"It shouldn't be something that's tolerated," Samson said. "It needs to be addressed because it shouldn't happen."

Shou praised the College's rapid response to the situation.

"I think it is smart that they would allocate a special team to do this," she said. "They are taking it very seriously, which I think is a good sign."

Students are responsible for holding themselves and the College accountable to prevent future acts of injustice, McPherson said.

In November 2011, homophobic and derogatory remarks were found written on the ground floor common room window in Fahey-McLane residence hall, adjacent to a gender-neutral floor. No student was identified as the perpetrator of the vandalism.

In the spring, the College enacted bias incident protocol that established response framework to such incidents, Satterlund said. The Bias Incident Team was formed this fall in light of previous campus incidents, according to Folt's email.

College Democrats President Mason Cole '13 said that the incident disservices political groups on campus and the greater Dartmouth community.

"It's embarrassing to think this kind of racism exists here at Dartmouth," he said. "It's really unfair to a lot of Republicans and other people who have legitimate disagreements with the president."

College Republicans Vice President J. P. Harrington '14 also expressed disappointment that members of the community would express such racial bigotry.

"This election was not about race, and it is truly sad that some in our community would make it so," he said in an email to The Dartmouth. "We hope that such hatred disappears from our campus and country."

Villeneuve is a member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.