Vandal defaces student health center sign
Racially-motivated message sparks further debate about underlying tension
An anonymous vandal scrawled the message “U.Va. hates blacks,” on a sign outside of Student Health late Sunday evening or early Monday morning.
The message was written with white chalk and appeared to have been mostly wiped off by 10:30 Monday morning, Dean of Students Allen Groves said. Groves was made aware of the incident early Monday morning, when a University student forwarded him a picture of the sign with the message written on it.
Groves expressed concern about the incident, both about the act of vandalism as well as the ambiguity of the message itself.
“If [the vandal is] a U.Va. community member, there is first the issue of vandalizing the sign,” which would constitute a violation of the University’s Standards of Conduct, Groves said. “I would also want to talk to the student about what he meant when writing it. It could be interpreted in multiple ways.”
Racially-motivated acts of vandalism are not unprecedented at the University. A message was written on Beta Bridge last spring questioning whether a mural in the same location recognizing the life and death of former student Casey Shulman would have remained so long had she not been white.
“It’s definitely not surprising in the least,” said Joy Omenyi, president of the University’s Black Student Alliance. “It is very apparent that there is racial tension felt by some people in this space.”
Omenyi, a fourth-year College student, said increased discussion of race relations among University students could help to minimize the likelihood of incidents like this in the future.
“There’s action that needs to be taken and dialogues that need to be held to attempt to ensure that everyone at this University feels like they belong,” she said. “We are committed to making this a space where black students can feel that they belong.”
The incident has been formally condemned by the University in a public statement, but Groves believes going forward it is best to keep the matter out of the limelight.
“The University needs to swiftly condemn acts of vandalism when we see them,” Groves said. “You don’t want to give more air time to something that’s ugly than it should deserve.”
University Police are collaborating with the FBI to investigate the act and find the person responsible for writing the message, University Police Lt. Melissa Fielding said.