Anti-gay graffiti found in dorm

by Beacon Staff • September 13, 2006

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman released a campus-wide email September 6 denouncing this latest incident of hateful graffiti to surface in residence halls.,Just days after the Class of 2010 moved into Emerson dormitories, three prejudicial messages were found written on a whiteboard hanging on the door of a suite.

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman released a campus-wide email September 6 denouncing this latest incident of hateful graffiti to surface in residence halls.

According to Ludman's e-mail, the phrases "I'm allergic to chicks!" "Are you gay?" and "I love rainbows" had been found, but both the identity of the victims and the location of the suite have not been released.

Director of Public Safety William McCabe said he could not comment on the incident because it currently under investigation.

This is the third such incident since March 2005, when two black students returned from spring break to find the racial slurs "tar baby" and "mud shark" written on their dorm door whiteboard.

In October of that same year, the words "Fuck you, you fagot [sic]" were found written on a poster on a student's door.

As reported in The Beacon last year, nine hate crimes, most of which were written messages, had been reported to the Emerson police since 1995, making this the 10th incident emerging in just over a decade.

"I think that, in general, Emerson is not only a tolerant community but an accepting community," Ludman said. "Whenever something like this surfaces it feels even more outrageous."

Alissa Blachner, a freshman production and stage management major, agreed, saying the incident was even more shocking because she has come to expect a certain level of open-mindedness among the student body.

"I chose this college because it is such an accepting and diverse community, so this is definitely a disappointment," Blachner said. "However, I am very glad that the school takes this very seriously."

Emerson's Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone (EAGLE) Co-Presidents Jessica Ganon said she appreciated the college's quick response.

She added she believes that because this recent event is not an isolated occurrence, something more needs to be done.

Ganon and EAGLE Co-President Andrea Wheeler said they intend to hold a meeting with a variety of student groups from the Cultural Center and Student Life to discuss the possibility of instituting mandatory diversity training for the entire Emerson student body.

"There needs to be something more than just a statement addressing the community," Ganon said. "Part of [this behavior]

is due to ignorance, and another part is intolerance."

Ganon said she has been in contact with the victim, who she said is an upperclassman.

However, Ganon would not identify the victim out of respect for the individual's privacy.

Tikesha Morgan, the new director of Multicultural Student Affairs, joined Ludman and EAGLE in condemning the graffiti messages.

Morgan said she intends to meet with EAGLE and other groups to ensure a continuous dialogue with the student body about this and any other incidents that may occur.

Morgan discussed the experience she has gathered in a number of student life positions at institutions of higher education such as Vassar College and most recently at Suffolk University.

"It's sad to say, but this stuff happens every year [at colleges and universities]," she said. "It needs to be dealth with right away and not swept under the rug."

While Morgan said she had not yet spoken with EAGLE or any representatives from Student Life about Ganon and Wheeler's hope for mandatory diversity training, she does think it is a "good thing to bring to the table for next year's orientation." Ganon said such training would send a clear message about what behavior standards are expected at Emerson.

Junior theatre design/technology major Natalie Kearns was a freshman when the March 2005 racial slurs appeared on a door of the 12th floor of the Little Building.

"There has kind of been a similar reaction," Kearns said. "People seem unsure if it is hate speech or a joke among friends. Either way, the freshman class will learn very quickly that this is a tolerant and respectful community."

As with previous occurrences, a meeting was held on the residence hall floor in question, Ludman said.

He also said the office of student life routinely holds, with this year as no exception, various programming with student groups to promote open conversations and acceptance throughout Emerson.

"I hope and believe that most of the student body would stand against behavior that devalues any human being or group of human beings, and instead would help us to cultivate principles under which we can all live and learn together," Ludman said.

Ganon said her group will continue to strive for tolerance among the student body.

"I don't know who did it," Ganon said, "and I don't know what they meant by it, but we are going to deal with this. There's been more love than hate. I would just like to get to the bottom of this."

Anyone who has any information about the graffiti incident is asked to contact Emerson Police at 617-824-8555.