Racist, violent graffiti found in Davee Library
October 27, 2009
A racist graffiti message threatening black and Asian students was found in a men’s restroom in the Chalmer Davee Library at UW-River Falls.
The vandalism threatened that violence against these two groups of the campus population would occur on Nov 2. It was found by a library user Sunday evening, who then reported it directly to UWRF police, according to Library Director Valerie Malzacher.
In a special edition of the Falcon Daily, UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen said he encouraged students to post an “I Pledge to Speak Up” sign, found on the UWRF Inclusiveness Web site and to show support for the campus.
“This commitment to respond to bias and prejudice is an important step towards ensuring UWRF is a University where individuals can learn, live and work in an environment of mutual respect,” he said.
UWRF student Nikki Shonoiki said she found out about the graffiti incident Monday night when she received an e-mail before attending a Black Student Union meeting.
“My initial reaction was one of ‘I told you so’ and ‘not another one,’ because I’ve always felt that it takes something like this—a serious threat of bodily harm—for people to start taking prejudice and discrimination seriously,” she said. “I have to admit I am very surprised and appreciative of the level of seriousness that this incident has been given by administration, staff, faculty and students. No one is taking this lightly and I really hope this person is caught.”
Upon hearing of the incident, Shonoiki created a Facebook event called “Hate is Not Tolerated at UWRF—Demonstration/Protest.” The event’s description encourages students to wear red clothing on Nov. 2 to show support of diversity on campus. As of Wednesday evening, nearly 1,300 people had confirmed their attendance to the event.
“The reason students should speak out about not only this incident but all hate related events targeted at people who are different is because hate doesn’t just affect the targets and the victims—it affects the loved ones, the classmates [and] the professors [of the victims],” Shonoiki said. “Also, weapons, although aimed at one type of person or group [of people] don’t discriminate. If there is an attack on our campus everyone will become the target. This is our chance to speak up against violence, against the people who think that they can use violence to persuade those [who] they don’t like to leave.”
Shonoiki also said the racist graffiti can have effects on prospective students deciding whether or not to attend the University.
“This incident is a direct example of ‘one step forward and two steps back,’” she said. “Three years ago, we put up signs on campus and in our community and wrote in our strategic plan that we are committed to including everyone, and now we must go back to square one. Depending on how the campus reacts to this threat within the next couple of weeks can determine the future decisions of students of color currently attending UWRF and prospective students of color.”
Malzacher said she was disheartened to learn of the racist graffiti message in the library.
“The library is a campus gathering place that provides an intellectual haven for our students, faculty, staff and community users,” she said. “It is a place where ideas can be explored in a safe and welcoming atmosphere. It saddens me when an individual, though a hateful act, can bring anger and distrust into a community that cherishes inclusiveness and respect for all individuals.”
Though Malzacher said that this is the first incident of graffiti in the library, it is not the first incident of graffiti on campus. Last September, racist graffiti was found by a professor on a bulletin board in the Ag Science building.
A special edition of the Falcon Daily on Thursday said “the campus will conduct normal business and all scheduled classes and events will be held” on Nov. 2, and students who do not wish to attend class that day are excused, though they must notify their instructors in advance.
The incident is currently under investigation by the UWRF Police Department. Students with any information are encouraged to call 715-425-3133.