Campus responds to hateful vandalism in private and public spaces

Right before spring break, on March 8, 2016, the Daily Piper announced that a swastika had been discovered in a residence hall. The symbol was etched into a wall next to an elevator in Turck Hall. It was not discovered until a student tweeted an image of it.

Facilities reached out to the student and discovered the location of the carving, documented it and removed it. The immediate response was to make it unrecognizable by scratching through it.

Dean of Students Jim Hoppe described his response following the discovery of the symbol.

“[The] protocol I followed then was to pull together a group of staff who were most connected to this particular incident, so in this case the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL), the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) and Residential Life since it was in one of the residence halls. We talked through the plan of response; we put the notice in the Piper, and then some team, in this case it was Chris MacDonald-Dennis and Kelly Stone have been looking to plan an educational program that will follow up on it.”

Hoppe and MacDonald-Dennis, the Dean of Multicultural Life, both made clear their belief that the swastika could have been in Turck for a while. It was carved into the white wall, making it hard to see, and it was surrounded by other carvings. If the picture had never been tweeted it is likely that it would have never come to the attention of the administration. People must have walked past the carving every day without noticing it. This means it’s very possible that it had been there for a long time, before anyone did anything about it.

The educational program MacDonald-Dennis and Stone have been planning is set for April 14 at noon in Weyerhauser Chapel.
The program will be two-fold, as it will also address an earlier event in which the n-word was found written atop the popcorn machine in the Loch.

“We’re so enured to it; people see stuff, and they don’t pay attention,” MacDonald-Dennis said. “That, and the fact of these symbols given the political climate, we kind of want to connect it.”

He said he wants to use this educational program “to breach that conversation.” Because to him “it doesn’t seem coincidental that a campus that generally doesn’t deal with these things has now seen people who whether they think they’re being edgy, or they’re going against political correctness, or whatever, however they view it, it’s in this environment that we’re talking about that.”

MacDonald-Dennis continued to say that he wants this community dialogue to allow people to voice their thoughts and disagreements. This would provide a better outlet rather than hateful messages.

“If there isn’t a place for people to disagree respectfully and honestly with each other, sometimes it comes out in these types of ways,” MacDonald-Dennis said.

He and Stone hope to continue this conversation in the fall of next year. He also said he wants to promote the idea of “if you see something, say something.”

It is still unknown who the persons responsible for the carving and the popcorn incident are, and it is likely that it will never be known. While it is possible that the swastika was carved by a Macalester student, because of its location inside a card-access secured dorm, both Hoppe and MacDonald-Dennis assert that these incidents aren’t the kind of thing that happens here.

Regarding the n-word on the popcorn machine however, Hoppe did say that the same day the writing was discovered, a group of middle schoolers were escorted out of the basement of the Campus Center.

Reactions from both the administration and student body to these and related incidents have been similar. Several members of the campus have reacted with confusion as to why a community that prides itself on acceptance has these problems.

MacDonald-Dennis said, “The more I think about it, the more disturbed I get, because I’m just like, ‘seriously?’”
As Hoppe stated, “It’s so clearly against our values.”

Sarah Richman ’16 said that when she first read about the swastika incident in the Daily Piper she felt that, “For a community that identifies as multicultural, diverse and inclusive, this was a disappointment.”