UMass probes racist graffiti, threat on bathroom mirror

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus Courtesy photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2018 12:27:54 AM

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts police are investigating a violent threat and racial slur that were written in the bathroom of a residence hall on Saturday morning.

The racist message was written on a mirror in a single-stall bathroom in the lobby of the first-year dormitory Melville Hall, and was first reported on by the student publication The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. The message featured a violent threat and racial slur directed at African-Americans, and university police are now searching for the person who wrote it.

“The university rejects racism in all forms and stands with our students, especially our students of color, who feel unsafe, vulnerable and angry in the aftermath of this incident,” university spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said in a statement. “It is a sobering fact that our community needs to come together to fight hate in the wake of this recent incident and we are reminded that the work of building a respectful community is ongoing.”

Police, a residence director and Dean of Students Cara Appel-Silbaugh met with Melville residents on Monday evening, according to Dettloff.

Dettloff said police have collected evidence and are reviewing security footage to determine who might have written the slur and threat, though no suspect has yet been identified.

“This is not uncommon on college campuses, which are unique places where people of differing backgrounds and perspectives come together and often collide,” Dettloff’s statement reads. “It is early in the semester, but we have cause to reflect and recommit to the work of building an inclusive campus community. Our diversity makes us stronger than what any individual can do in a cowardly and hateful act on a bathroom mirror.”

Dettloff told the Gazette that there were many visitors who signed into the building on Saturday — a busy day on campus because of the home football game.

“It’s possible it could be someone from outside the university, but we just don’t know that at this time,” Dettloff said.

The Daily Collegian reported that some Melville students were upset that the message was referred to as a “bias-related incident” instead of stronger wording. Other students interviewed by the Collegian expressed fear and anger over the threat and slur.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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