Within the past two weeks, campus residence halls have seen two hate incidents involving graffiti, causing anger and alarm among students and hall staff members.
San Nicolas Hall has experienced 12 cases of vandalism this fall, the most recent of which occurred on Oct. 31 when the words “Fuck Niggers” were found written on a stairwell between the fourth and fifth floors. Meanwhile, drawings of swastikas were found on walls and doors this weekend in Francisco Torres Residence Hall. No suspects have been found.
A similar incident occurred last April, when the same phrase – “Fuck Niggers” – was scribbled on the women’s bathroom door in Santa Rosa’s Black/African-American Studies Hall. Again, no suspects were found.
Mike Haque, a first-year computer science major living in San Nicolas, said the incident disturbed and frustrated him.
“I was offended, because it could happen to any of us,” Haque said.
Director of Residential Life Charlene Chew-Ogi said the university recognizes the seriousness of the crimes.
“We have an ‘Ethic of Care’ in the residence halls that involves caring about yourself, caring about others and caring about this place,” Chew-Ogi said. “This type of non-inclusive graffiti isn’t funny, and we take it very seriously.”
Res Life has responded to the hate incidents with statements of condemnation as well as diversity programs and other such strategies.
FT staff members issued letters to residents regarding the hall’s zero-tolerance policy on hate crimes and created an anti-hate bulletin board with daily quotes about tolerance and diversity. Meanwhile, San Nic staff members hosted floor meetings to inform residents about the incidents and to provide counseling services to any students who may have been affected.
Although it was scheduled to occur prior to the recent incidents, FT Resident Assistant Jessie Nieblas said today’s diversity program, “Not in Our Hall” will hopefully help prevent such future cases.
“We want to empower [students] to confront issues of hate, to create a positive environment and a safe space in the halls,” Nieblas, a third-year women’s studies major, said.
Nieblas said the program, to be held in each residence hall, features the film “Not in Our Town,” which shows how various towns responded to hate incidents. The program also includes a faculty-moderated student discussion about racial and ethnic issues on campus.
“We designed the program to be proactive, but some buildings have already had incidents,” Nieblas said. “It’s unfortunate, but at least those students will have tangible proof that it can happen to them, and resident awareness will be more prevalent.”