Racially-charged graffiti in library sparks investigation
Dean of Students Eddie Holloway announced the university’s plan at to take action after profane graffiti was found in the Cook Library on Feb. 15.
“This incident will be addressed and have more or heightened security to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Holloway said during a speech for the Department of History’s A Crime That’s So Unjust event.
A Crime That’s So Unjust, part of the university’s Black History Month iti nerary, took place the day following the incident.
Brooke Bullock, sophomore mass communications major, attended the seminar and witnessed Holloway speak on the issue.
“At the black history seminar ,questions were raised about the incident and Dr. Holloway reassured us that firm measures are in place,” she said.
On Feb. 15, custodians performed their daily cleaning routine on the morning and discovered a shocking word graffitied on the wall in a bathroom in Cook Library. The cleaning staff immediately informed the university police of the offensive vandalism: the N-word, scrawled in ink.
The perpetrator penned more racial innuendos than the infamous racial slur.
UPD Chief Bob Hopkins explained the morning’s events.
“Custodial went in to clean one of the men’s restrooms in Cook Library, and when they did, they found graffiti that was inappropriate that had been printed in bold on one of the walls,” Hopkins said. “It was some comments disparaging [African-Americans], and it also mentioned the KKK and Trump 2016.”
UPD acquired surveillance footage of the area around the bathroom. Throughout last week, investigators reviewed that footage to scour for any clues to identify the tagger.
“We know when it was first found and when it was last cleaned,” Hopkins said. “We are working backwards from there, reviewing footage to see what we can see as far as who could have possibly been the perpetrator. We still have a long way to go and about three days of footage to review.”
Hopkins said an adequate punishment will be easier to determine once the guilty person is identified.
“It could be a misdemeanor vandalism, or it could be more, but we’d have to look at the law as it related to that,” Hopkins said. “Right now, all we know is that there is no physical victim or anything of that nature. It would probably just be a misdemeanor vandalism, destruction of state property, at this point.”
He said though the graffiti was racially charged, it cannot be labeled as a hate crime without a physical victim.
“No one considers it a hate crime at this point,” Hopkins said. “We are just calling it an inappropriate comment. There is no victim, per se, involved; just inappropriate language — which we’ll try to find out who did it if we find some video of them.”
USM sophomore psychology major Saiera Burgos sighed when she heard about the incident.
“That’s just ignorance,” Burgos said. “Someone is just trying to piss someone else off.”
Fayth Stewart, a USM freshman music major, reacted similarly.
“I can’t believe we still live in a generation that thinks racial diversity is a bad thing,” Stewart said. “The human race has a long way to go. Diversity is good and necessary for our social development. Accepting diversity helps humanity thrive to it’s full potential.”
UPD has one lead: They have identified one student who saw the graffiti before Monday morning. His statement may aid the investigative process.
“We’ve been talking to some people in custodial who clean up pretty regularly,” Hopkins said. “The last time it was cleaned was [Feb. 12], and this was Monday morning when they found it. We did find a witness who saw it early Sunday morning around 1 p.m., so that kind of narrows down the timeline.”
If you have information on this incident or to report a crime, contact UPD at (601)266-4986.