Williams cancels classes to reflect on racist graffiti

by College Fix Staff on November 16, 2011

Williams College canceled all classes and all athletic activities Monday after a racist statement was found written in a hallway.

“All Niggers Must Die” was found written (“scrawled,” according to the university) on the wall in a campus dorm on Saturday. According to Inside Higher Ed, students demanded the cancelation of classes to create time for reflection about the incident, said James Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs.

The university released a statement about the incident and the response (the full statement is below):

(Campus Safety and Security) and the Dean’s Office will continue their investigation into who is responsible for this incident. So far they have talked with everyone who lives in Prospect and everyone who based on card swipes was in the building at the time. A great deal of harm has been done by this vile act. Since there is no excuse for behavior so offensive, hateful, and harmful—anywhere, but especially at Williams—we will continue to do all that we can to hold the perpetrator(s) accountable.

After consulting with the Faculty Steering Committee, we have decided to cancel all classes and athletic practices tomorrow (Monday). We understand how this disrupts important college functions, but in the wake of a shock such as this, the campus community needs to take a pause. An event that we expect all available students, faculty, and staff to attend will take place at 11 a.m. on Chapin Lawn. Details of that will be sent later. We also hope that all those attending will be able to find ways to have lunch together in small groups. To facilitate that, card swipes will not be required for Monday lunch.

Instead of classes, students participated in a full day of programming and speeches from administrations. The full university statement:

To the Williams Community,

We want to report to you the full facts of what took place early Saturday morning. What follows here is very disturbing.

On Saturday at around 12:30 a.m. a student called Campus Safety and Security to report seeing scrawled on a hallway wall on the fourth floor of Prospect Hall the phrase “All Niggers Must Die.” We are horrified by this act and regret needing to repeat such language in a college communication.

CSS launched a college investigation and notified Williamstown Police.

The initial e-mail report to campus went out around 10 a.m. We apologize for the fact that not only what occurred, but our initial report itself, have made a significant number of campus community members feel unsafe.

Dean Sarah Bolton invited a range of student leaders to meet with her and Vice President Mike Reed that evening. We estimate that about 70 students took part. As the evening went on, they were joined by several faculty and staff, including President Adam Falk and Vice President Steve Klass. At one point in the evening, a group of students and others marched to the Williamstown Police Station to encourage the town’s investigation of this hate crime.

Those of us at Saturday evening’s meeting came away with a much deeper understanding of the sense of vulnerability that many members of our campus community live with each day and how it has been made worse by this hate speech and the initial report.

Today at 12:30 p.m. some 200 students, faculty, and staff met in Goodrich to continue the conversation, including a discussion of possible college responses.

We can report that, given the gravity of the situation, those responses include the following:

CSS and the Dean’s Office will continue their investigation into who is responsible for this incident. So far they have talked with everyone who lives in Prospect and everyone who based on card swipes was in the building at the time. A great deal of harm has been done by this vile act. Since there is no excuse for behavior so offensive, hateful, and harmful—anywhere, but especially at Williams—we will continue to do all that we can to hold the perpetrator(s) accountable.

After consulting with the Faculty Steering Committee, we have decided to cancel all classes and athletic practices tomorrow (Monday). We understand how this disrupts important college functions, but in the wake of a shock such as this, the campus community needs to take a pause. An event that we expect all available students, faculty, and staff to attend will take place at 11 a.m. on Chapin Lawn. Details of that will be sent later. We also hope that all those attending will be able to find ways to have lunch together in small groups. To facilitate that, card swipes will not be required for Monday lunch.

Several spaces on campus will be set aside and staffed for those who would like to continue important discussions about these matters. Details on this to follow.

Members of the Counseling Center (x2353), Dean’s Office (x4171), Multicultural Center (x3340), and Chaplains’ Office (x2483) are available for students who would benefit from their support. Anyone wishing to meet with the Counseling Center should call CSS (x4444), who will contact a counselor to arrange for a phone or on-campus consultation. We will report later on extended hours and places at which counselors will be available.

For any students who feel physically unsafe, please contact CSS (x4444), which will contact the Dean’s Office.

The college is forming a committee to produce a protocol for the handling and reporting of any future such incidents.

We encourage faculty, but all of us really, to appreciate that what has occurred here has affected a large number of students so deeply that it will be difficult for them to function normally for some time. We urge sensitivity to their situations.

We also encourage everyone to take care of those you are with tonight.

As we together organize our individual, group, and college-wide responses, may that be with outrage at what has occurred and at what too many members of the campus community are continually burdened by, along with the resolute sense that in the end we will succeed in making this campus, nation, and world a place that is safe for all.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Sarah Bolton
Dean of the College

Steve Klass
V.P. for Campus Life

Mike Reed
V.P. for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity

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