Students, staff discuss latest graffiti incident

Lee Betancourt

Anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered last Thursday afternoon on the ground in the Quad, making it the second incident of racially motivated graffiti in less than a month.

In response to the incident, junior Melissa Long, a diversity peer educator, called a meeting for students and staff last Thursday night.

“I was very pleased with the initiative shown by Melissa Long in calling the meeting,” said Dr. Terry Nance, assistant vice president for Multicultural Affairs. “It shows how important diversity is to students.”

Dr. Heidi Rose, associate professor for communication, attended the meeting and was happy with its outcome.

“I was taken by the range of people,” she said. “Every arm of the University was there.”

Rose also said that “the meeting was energy- and action-driven.”

Everyone came to solve the problems the graffiti represents. However, there were a variety of opinions expressed at the meeting, Rose said.

“At the end of the meeting a lot of people were talking about how it comes down to an individual level,” she said. “I said that sometimes, though, we can feel powerless.”

To combat this feeling, Rose and others suggested that University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., send a letter to the whole campus addressing the issue and clearly condemning it.

Although he did not know about the meeting until the next day, Donohue had already planned to send a message to the entire campus.

“I knew it would be more powerful coming from me,” he said. “I find that kind of action deplorable, especially for the kind of institution we claim we are.”

The graffiti, which included a swastika and a Star of David, was found on the ground outside of Sullivan Hall, yet Donohue said that the University cannot automatically assume that students were responsible.

However, “if we did discover who did it,” he said, “they wouldn’t be here very long.”

Last month’s racist graffiti found in McGuire was likely student-based, Donohue said, because of the location in the residence hall restroom. It is unclear whether the two incidents are linked.

The anti-Semitic graffiti, which was reported by a student, was cleaned up very quickly in the Quad, something which Rose said may have been a mistake, as many students still don’t know exactly what happened.

“It’s important [for people] to see it in front of them,” Rose said. “When it’s abstract it’s distant. When it’s concrete, it’s in your face and you’re faced with the ugliness of it. You can’t walk away from it.”

The meeting was the first step to confront the graffiti on campus; however, it was not the last.

“We’ve been making sure that the RAs are aware [of the incident] so that they can educate the residents through programming and bulletin boards,” Director of Residence Life Tom DeMarco said.

Both Donohue and Rose said they were happy that the entire Villanova community is addressing these issues so openly and with participation from both students and staff.

“This sort of thing happens everywhere; how the community handles it is what makes a difference,” Rose said. “If it’s handled openly, everyone feels like they’re solving the problem, and that’s when we feel truly like a community.”