Around six o’clock Tuesday evening, a student found a swastika scribbled in pen on the wall of his dormitory, Hegeman Hall Tower C. His friend covered the graffiti with a yellow paper star, and the students called the Department of Public Safety to report the incident.
The swastika was later removed by Facilities Management, and the incident was reported to and documented by DPS and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, according to Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Koren Bakkegard.
“It was striking,” said Jack Waters ’21, who discovered the graffiti when he was walking down the stairs in Hegeman. The anti-Semitic symbol was drawn on an overhang above the stairs to the basement, visible from the dormitory’s front entrance.
This was not the first instance of hateful graffiti in Hegeman this school year, nor was it the first that Waters has found in his building. The swastika comes amid a recent trend of more than 15 homophobic graffiti incidents in Hegeman since late November, which spurred an ongoing hate crime investigation by DPS, The Herald previously reported.
Waters also found a racist remark written on a poster in late November. He tore down the poster, which advertised Hasan Minhaj’s lecture that had taken place the day before.
“That was an easy fix,” Waters said, “but it doesn’t fix the person who put it up there.”
Waters and other Hegeman residents expressed frustration and concern over the recent outburst of hate speech in their dormitory.
“Brown is a place where people can be very open about their identity, and the fact that there are people here who are willing to target and harass people who belong to marginalized groups is disgusting,” said Michael LeClerc ’20.5, another Hegeman resident. “It’s scary, but you also feel the need to fight back.”
LeClerc added that a Hegeman resident whose mother is Jewish “seemed really shocked” by the graffiti.
LeClerc and Waters, who are both transfer students, also noted that they had never heard of this type of hate speech taking place at the University before. But Waters, who is originally from Pittsburgh, added that he is “very intimately aware of anti-Semitism,” coming from a city with a recent history of extreme anti-Semitic violence.
"Brown's reputation as a liberal school really harms people belonging to marginalized communities," LeClerc said, "because you don't think it could happen here, and then it also emboldens people to do this sort of thing to lash out against us."
"Any acts that target members of our community on the basis of their identity, or have the effect of threatening their full inclusion, violate our values as a University and residential community. They are absolutely unacceptable," wrote Estes and Bakkegard in an email to The Herald.
A Jan. 17 email to Hegeman residents from Estes and Bakkegard informed students that administrators were considering installing security cameras in the public areas of the residence hall “to help put an end to these hurtful incidents.” Another email this morning notified Hegeman residents that DPS will proceed with the installation of these cameras. The email also thanked the students who reported the swastika graffiti and encouraged residents to share any relevant information with DPS.
"Given the troubling pattern of homophobic and now anti-Semitic graffiti that continues to be reported, it is important to take every action we can to identify the individual(s) responsible and prevent further incidents from occurring," Estes and Bakkegard wrote in an email to The Herald.
LeClerc described the installation of security cameras in Hegeman Hall's public spaces as "a total violation of our privacy as residents." Still, he feels it is important to find out who drew a swastika on the wall of his dormitory.
“I don’t know how they plan to find the person, because it’s somebody literally just using a pen on a wall for a minute, and then they’re gone,” LeClerc said. “I want to find out who’s doing it, and I want them to suffer the consequences of it, because this is gross. It’s just disgusting.”
Waters emphasized the importance of not giving attention to the person responsible for the graffiti, saying the students covered up the swastika because such a hateful symbol did not belong in their dormitory. “I think it was actually some interesting symbolism that it was covered with a star,” he added.
—With additional reporting by Kamran King
This story has been updated to reflect two later developments: the removal of the graffiti and the confirmation that security cameras will be installed in Hegeman Hall by DPS.