Updated: Mar 7, 2020
Two incidents of racist vandalism occurred Wednesday in a Henson Hall stairwell and on a Fulton Hall door, marking the fifth and sixth occurrence on Salisbury University’s campus.
The graffiti first appeared in the Henson Hall stairwell closest to Devilbiss Hall around 2 p.m. and was quickly reported to the authorities. The perpetrator once again made violent threats against African American students.
Later Wednesday evening, another piece of graffiti was found, echoing the first. The graffiti appeared on a door on the second floor of Fulton Hall.
This marks an escalation of threat, as it is the first time two acts of vandalism have occurred on one day. Additionally, it is the first piece of graffiti to not appear in a stairwell.
Some students were outraged over this vandalism, especially over its violent mockery of Black History Month.
A small crowd of student leaders formed outside of the Henson Hall stairwell as police finished their crime scene investigation and the graffiti was painted over. The gathering was led initially by Student Government Association’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion Dorien Rogers.
“I’m tired. I’m tired, but I’m still going to show up. I’m still going to fight, I’m still going to fight, I’m still going to fight,” Rogers said.
Administration did come to the gathering to help assuage student leaders’ concerns, echoing the emails and text messages released by President Charles Wight’s office.
Since the last incident of racist vandalism in Fulton Hall, SU continues to work with multiple agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to find the perpetrator of these acts of racist vandalism.
The investigation is ongoing, and the perpetrator is still unknown.
The administration has also worked to improve its communication to students. The implementation of the non-emergency text hotline as well as a more immediate response from Wight were suggested at last semester’s Fulton Hall incident town hall.
However, Fathima Rifkey, co-president of College Democrats, felt that administration has not done enough in response to these events, highlighting what she felt was disorganization in the flow of information to students.
“I think what is needed is a lot more direct communication from the administration. I feel like everything that’s come out has been very scattered and not direct in answering [our questions],” Rifkey said.
Students also feel that the administration has neglected to maintain campus safety.
Maya Hooper, secretary of SU's NAACP chapter, voiced concern over the lack of visible security on campus.
“I only saw an increase for about five days after the last incident, and after that, I haven’t seen a single security guard on campus … which just shows that it definitely needs to be taken more seriously,” Hooper said. “Cameras, security, feeling more presence on campus.”
Chief of the SU Police Department Edwin Lashley maintains that additional cameras have been installed on campus, but declined to provide any details.
A concern over SU’s campus culture has been raised across students, faculty and staff.
Change SU, a coalition of 13 student groups, formed after the Fulton Hall incident to advocate for changes that will help reshape that culture.
Ethan Sensbach, a Change SU organizer, feels that the reoccurrence of the vandalism is not surprising, and will only stop once more than just personnel changes are implemented.
“It’s not unbelievable. It’s completely believable because administration has created a culture that allows people to think that these actions are acceptable on our campus,” Sensbach said. “Something that we’re really focusing on is curriculum. We’re pushing for a diversity general education requirement.”
Classes were cancelled to allow the campus community the time to heal. Multiple programs will be held throughout Thursday by administration and student groups to address the vandalism and campus culture.
Dr. Lilian Odera, director of student counseling, stressed the importance of self-care during this time of crisis.
“As a community, we need to come together, we need to support each other. We need to acknowledge the impact not on individuals only, but on us as a university community.” Odera said. “I am hopeful and optimistic that we will rise above.”
There are multiple programs and safe spaces that are open on Thursday for students to come together and talk about the repeated incidents of vandalism.
The Counseling Center will hold a special session from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Nanticoke Room in GSU.
President Wight will hold an open discussion with students, faculty and staff from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Wicomico Room, GSU.
Multicultural Student Services will host students from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the in Multicultural Student Services Suite in GSU.
The School of Social Work will hold a space for support and solidarity from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Conway Hall (TETC), Room 381.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and PACE will hold civic reflections and small group discussion in the Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion in Blackwell Hall throughout the day.
From 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., members of the campus community are invited to gather in the Wicomico Room, GSU, in fellowship. Food and beverages will be available.
The residence halls will hold meetings at various times. Please monitor your emails and/or reach out to your resident directors and assistants for more information.
Students with any information about the vandalism are advised to contact Crime Solvers at 410-548-1776 or University Police at 410-543-6222.
By HALEY TAYLOR
Featured photos: Brendan Link image, student photo.