James McClendon, Editor-in-Chief
A college residence hall is a place where students should feel at home and more importantly safe. Two weekends ago, that feeling at Utica College was interrupted when according to an email from the Office of the President, several instances of racially insensitive and homophobic graffiti were reported to campus officials.
The email, which was sent out at least five days after the incident, stated that a full investigation is underway and additional security officers have been assigned to patrol Bell Hall. For junior Kendal Santiago, this response was not sufficient.
“I am surprised by the college’s lack of response,” Santiago said. “This was a hate crime. This should be handled as one. Faculty, staff and students should have been notified immediately. I am offended that the Utica College community was notified so late.”
After the graffiti was reported, campus maintenance was quickly called to remove it.
Jeffery Gates, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said the information released in last Friday’s memo was all they knew at the time.
“We are confident that we are going to identify the person responsible,” Gates said. “We don’t know their intent but I want to make it clear that what happened is not tolerable and will not be tolerated on Utica’s campus.”
According to Gates, the investigation will be conducted confidentially.
“The reason that we are keeping it closed is with the hope that we are going to find out who did this and hold them responsible,” Gates said.
Alexia Colacicco is a junior at Utica College, as well as a resident assistant in Bell Hall. She feels the immediate response by the college was appropriate.
“Short-term, I think it was handled well,” Colacicco said. “Everything was removed from the walls as soon as it was seen to prevent other students from seeing it and an email was sent out to all residents of the building notifying them of what happened and who they can contact if they know anything or just need to talk.”
She also believes that changes need to be made to prevent anything like this from reoccurring.
“Long term, I think more needs to be done,” Colacicco said. “In addition to notifying all of campus about what happened, I think professors should be talking to their classes about it. There should be events based around it. If they think they can get away with this because nobody is talking about it anymore, what will stop them from doing it again?”
Students want to feel safe where they live and for Santiago that safety has been threatened.
“I am an Afro-Latina woman,” Santiago said. “I have friends on this campus who are part of the LGBTQ community. This is our home too. We shouldn’t have to look over our shoulders when walking through campus.”
Colacicco feels physically safe but fears that some students may be affected psychologically.
“This could take a toll on a lot of people,” Colacicco said. “I think feeling unwelcomed could lead to feeling unsafe, which I’m sure some students feel knowing what was written.”
Sophomore Avel Montas believes that this incident can be traced back to the social attitudes that have been displayed across the country since Donald Trump was elected president.
“It is absolutely disgusting that someone would do that and think it’s funny,” Montas said. “It’s a shame that a few people make individuals that voted republican in the last election look bad. How can we move forward when hatred is being spewed?”
He also trusts that the incident will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable.
“I think the school will handle the situation correctly and find out who did it,” Montas said. “Utica College’s core values and beliefs go against what was written on those walls.”