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DPS investigates Hegeman homophobic graffiti

Investigation starts two months after first complaint found more than 15 instances

The Department of Public Safety has launched an active, ongoing hate crime investigation into more than 15 incidents of homophobic graffiti inside Hegeman Hall dormitory.

The homophobic graffiti was first seen in late November 2019, when a group of students noticed “gay room” written on the door to their suite, said a Fall 2019 Hegeman Hall resident who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. At first the students brushed it off, but as more graffiti appeared in the following weeks, “it got more and more scary and frustrating,” the Fall 2019 resident said.

After the first incident in November, students filled out a bias incident report and reported the graffiti to Hegeman Hall’s Community Associates, Student Support Services and the Office of Residential Life. While the Fall 2019 resident received some responses, he did not feel that anything was being done to stop the vandal or prevent future graffiti. It was frustrating to “report it and have nothing happen quick enough that I would feel safe,” he added. It was only when he informed the LGBTQ Center of the incidents during a Dec. 9 meeting that the Fall 2019 resident “felt heard, finally.”

During an inspection the same day, Area Coordinator Mark Wade found various homophobic messages written in the building, according to an email Wade sent to Hegeman residents. The graffiti included segregating the building’s two refrigerators between “queer” and “straight,” and writings like “don’t be a faggot!” and “if you’re gay, you can’t stay!” according to photos obtained by The Herald.

Finding the graffiti “was incredibly shocking and deeply saddening,” said a current resident of Hegeman Hall, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. Since that time, including during winter break, more instances of homophobic graffiti were found and documented by DPS, Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Koren Bakkegard wrote in an email to Hegeman Hall residents.

On the day of Wade’s inspection, University offices including the LGBTQ Center, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, ResLife, Facilities Management, Student Support Services, the Title IX office, the Office of Campus Life and DPS began working to ensure that all known incidents of graffiti in Hegeman Hall were “documented by DPS, filed with the Bias Incident Reporting protocol (and) removed by Facilities Management,”Bakkegard wrote in an email to The Herald.

While the current Hegeman resident did not think that the University was prompt in its initial response to the incidents, as the frequency and severity of the homophobic graffiti increased, “the University really started taking it seriously,” she said. They now “seem to be very thorough” in their response, she added. The University is considering installing security cameras in the public areas of residence halls, Wade wrote in an email to Hegeman residents.

These acts “are harmful and taken very seriously,” Director of the LGBTQ Center Kelly Garrett wrote in an email to The Herald. “They not only send a message of hate to the individuals who are directly targeted, but … to members of LGBTQ+ communities as a whole,” she added. Bakkegard characterized the graffiti as “absolutely unacceptable.”

Rene Davis, Title IX program officer, also denounced the bias incidents, writing, “Graffiti as a tool to attack one’s sense of belonging and limit one’s ability to live their identity out loud is problematic and does not represent who we are as a community,” in an email to The Herald.

“We may think of Brown as a liberal bubble (but) it doesn’t exist outside of real-world systems of power and oppression,” the Fall 2019 resident said. “People should be aware that this is something that has happened, and can happen in the future at Brown,” he added.

The current Hegeman resident also noted that Brown’s environment “may not be as rosy and liberal as people want to believe it is.”

Bakkegard encourages anyone with information about the graffiti in Hegeman Hall to contact DPS at (401) 863-3322, or anonymously through DPS’ Silent Witness Reporting system. Students seeking support can contact the LGBTQ Center, Counseling and Psychological Services orStudent Support Services.


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