Graffiti on Grounds: UVA condemns hate speech—again

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The latest act of hate speech graffiti at UVA, the word “terrorist” written in pencil outside two Muslim students’ dorm room, is the third this year. Courtesy UVA’s Middle Eastern Leadership Council The latest act of hate speech graffiti at UVA, the word “terrorist” written in pencil outside two Muslim students’ dorm room, is the third this year. Courtesy UVA’s Middle Eastern Leadership Council

Hate speech graffiti has marred the walls of several UVA buildings this semester. The most recent case of vandalism came to light Sunday when graffiti was discovered in Brown Residential College. According to an e-mail sent to students Monday morning from Dean of Students Allen Groves, the word “terrorist” was scribbled with an arrow pointing toward the door of two Muslim residents.

“As a community, we categorically reject and condemn this type of hateful message,” wrote Groves.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was also spotted on the side the GrandMarc apartment building on 15th Street October 23. Students and professors of the Jewish faith have been present at the University of Virginia since the 1800s, and James Joseph Sylvester, the first Jewish professor in the United States, taught here briefly in 1841.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was found scrawled on the GrandMarc apartment building on 15th Street October 23. Photo Michaela Brown
Anti-Semitic graffiti was found scrawled on the GrandMarc apartment building on 15th Street October 23. Photo Michaela Brown

The neon orange Star of David with the German word “Juden” underneath was the same graffiti used in Nazi Germany to mark the businesses of Jewish citizens for discrimination—and worse.

Saskia Feldman, a second-year and member of both Hillel and Chabad Jewish organizations on Grounds, says she was shocked and “didn’t actually believe it” when she first saw the graffiti on social media. “It’s just crazy to think that people feel better by putting others down,” she says.

Second-year Wittney Skigen posted on Facebook: “It is 2016 and things like this still happen. How is that possible? How can someone harbor such hate and such ignorance?”

Her post received nearly 400 likes and 20 shares.

The Office of the Dean of Students, the Brody Jewish Center, the Chabad House, the Jewish Leadership Council and Student Council have all condemned the graffiti in a letter to the university community, calling it a clear example of hate speech. In addition, The Islamic Society of Central Virginia sent out its own statement October 31, saying it “expresses strong solidarity with the victims of the recent discriminatory and hate incidents that have occurred at the University of Virginia. The ISCV also condemns all acts of hate and prejudice and calls upon the local community to peacefully unite in opposing such behavior.”

This isn’t the first time this semester insensitive and hateful graffiti has been used to incite discord at the university. In September, racist messages were written with permanent marker inside the Kent and Dabney dormitories on McCormick Road. The messages included the N-word written on doors and whiteboards across multiple levels of the building, and ignited outrage around Grounds.

The Black Student Alliance released a statement after the graffiti was discovered: “[We] will never tolerate such cowardly, small-minded attempts at vandalism at our university, and we condemn those who would try to discourage people of color from learning and socializing.”

In April, chalked messages were seen on sidewalks around Grounds that targeted both the black and transgendered communities at UVA. One of these messages said, “Confused about your gender? Look down your pants.” Another message referenced the wealth gap by comparing the average IQs of black and white people.

The Black Student Alliance and the Queer Student Union washed away the hateful messages and replaced them with positive messages, such as “Love is love” and “Your black is beautiful” in a mission to reclaim the space.

And in January 2014, “UVA Hates Blacks” was scribbled in chalk on the Elson Student Health Center Sign on the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Avenue.

Groves also denounced that graffiti two years ago: “The university needs to swiftly condemn acts of vandalism when we see them. You don’t want to give more air time to something that’s ugly than it should deserve.”

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