By Kylie Chesser
Following acts of vandalism in and around the Herman Brown Residence Hall, emails were sent out throughout the week concerning the crime alert and those affected by the acts. Chief Deborah Brown and the campus police are actively working to find those responsible.
Brown stated that over the past two weeks three to four crude drawings have appeared on the doors of residents and the laundry room in Herman Brown.
“The graffiti consisted of drawings of offensive nature, mostly swastikas in sharpie and things like that,” Brown said. “It seems to be the work of students rather than locals.”
Vice President of Student Life Jerry Brody also addressed the community on the matter.
“Like everyone else, I am very upset and saddened that this occurred,” Brody said. “We need your help. This community needs your help. If you know anything, please share this information.”
According to Brody, no actual threats were made to any group in the community.
“The graffiti is clearly frightening, incredibly intimidating and hurtful,” Brody said. “But I’m not anticipating anything beyond what we’ve seen, and there is no evidence that it could be reaching a [violent] level. We are committed to protecting your booty!”
Brown emphasized the importance of communicating information about these events to appropriate authorities.
“Somebody knows who this is,” Brown said. “SUPD would like that information. If students don’t want to come forward to us, they can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-253-7867. Their report will be totally anonymous, and if it leads to an arrest, they could receive up to $2,000. If they come to SUPD, we also try to keep anonymity.”
Director of Counseling Services Dr. Judy Sonnenberg organized a discussion on Monday in the Connie Ballroom for concerned students and faculty. Chief Brown made a statement, and attendees had the opportunity to ask questions about the crimes.
A recurring subject at the forum was the handling of the matter and how information was communicated to students in particular.
“My students have no idea what’s going on,” Assistant Professor of Philosophy Omar Rivera said. “They don’t know the content of what’s happened. There has to be a way of raising awareness of what happened, but also not scaring students. I think the sensation of my students is that they’re afraid, but don’t know of what, because they have heard a hundred different rumors.”
Dr. Alicia Moore, Associate Professor of Education, expressed concern about the role of faculty in communicating with and consoling their students.
“Even though we are trying not to scare students, faculty and staff need to know the loop of what’s going on, because we can’t support our students or break up fears if we don’t,” Moore said.
Sonnenburg explained that university officials were still attempting to determine an appropriate approach for distributing information about the vandalism in a timely manner. While several email notices were sent out, students were unsure about the circumstances of the crime.
“I apologize for not including specific details about the graffiti in the first email that I sent out,” Sonnenberg said. “I’ll take some responsibility for the confusion that arose.”
Senior Lizette Villarreal also had concerns about the communications.
“People come to us as leaders,” Villarreal said. “My [Panhellenic] sisters come to me and want answers about what’s going on and I don’t know what to tell them. Things were not entirely clear.”
Brown explained that the abusive language of the vandalism made it difficult to articulate correspondences that were both informative and inoffensive.
“We wanted the community to know that there are offensive things being written, but it’s a fine line we had to balance,” Brown said. “I’m still not sure if the community wants to hear [that type of language]. We were trying to get the information out, but not to sensationalize, which is unfortunately what happened anyway.”
Following Brody’s and Sonnenberg’s emails, President Schrum sent out a statement regarding the crime.
“I am both outraged and saddened by these acts. Not only are they painful for the targeted groups or individuals, but they also erode the fabric of our community,” Schrum said. “During times like this it is important that we reaffirm our commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive University.”
Senior Kadi Magassa expressed frustration at the community’s perceived lack of interest and action on this issue.
“What people are doing is actually offensive,” Magassa said. “We need to be here together discussing this event. We have to figure out a way to get everyone together.”
Sophomore DeAndre’ Woods-Walker also urged students, staff, and administrators to actively contend the negativity of the vandalism.
“We have to take action and take responsibility because this is our home. I’m miles and miles from home, but this school is also my home, and I should take responsibility as well.”
Aside from concerns about official communication, the current focus is on finding the perpetrator(s). Brown made it clear that SUPD’s goal is to protect community members’ interests and reassure them.
“Whoever [the criminal] is needs to be warned that this is not a community that allows this stuff, and we will do what it takes to make sure our members feel safe in their belief systems and practices, whatever they may be,” Brown said.
The graffiti could mean a criminal mischief or vandalism charge for those responsible. Depending on the cost of cleaning it up, the crime may be a misdemeanor or could ultimately lead to jail time.
“It is in direct contrast of Southwestern’s core values,” Brown said. “I and Dean Jaime Woody and Vice President Brody, all the way to President Schrum, are appalled at the blatant disrespect of Southwestern’s core values and the value of others’ rights, privileges and beliefs.”
Students with questions, concerns or any information that will help to apprehend the individual(s) responsible for these recent acts of vandalism can contact the SU Police at 512-863-1944.