Acts of intolerance on campus continued when two separate incidents were reported last week.
On Friday morning, Residential Life Facilities staff found graffiti on the walls on the second floor of Gilbert Hall. The writings were homophobic in nature and one stated, “U of R is gayer than gay.”
The second incident occurred on Tuesday in a men’s restroom on the fourth floor of Wilson Commons. After 1 p.m., graffiti was found on one of the toilet dispensers. According to UR Security investigator Dan Lafferty, the writing was racially discriminatory and was removed after it had photographed.
These latest occurrences are disappointing to students, administration and Security who have been working to find solutions to the recent rash of public acts of intolerance. In the past two weeks, homophobic and racist graffiti has been found at various locations on campus.
“These are subtle acts of cowardice,” said Director of Security Walter Mauldin. He said the graffiti found in the bathroom was written on toilet paper. “The medium was appropriate considering the content,” he said. “It was disposed of in an appropriate way.”
Meanwhile, students looking for ways to respond have formed various committees with the encouragement of Dean of Students Jody Asbury.
Sophomore and Students’ Association Senator Ruthie Varkovitzky distributed flyers asking students to respond if they wanted to be involved after the first incidents occurred. “The response to the flyers has been quite positive,” she said. “People are eager to help and many of them want to take action.”
Varkovitzky said that she has created an e-mail list of approximately 55 students who are interested in being involved in a solution.
The SA Senate has talked about forming a new committee that would be called the Diversity Council. This idea was proposed by junior and SA Senator Adam Simmons. He wanted to form a committee to bring different SA groups together and give them money to sponsor campus wide events.
Simmons emphasized that the purpose of this committee would be to unite various groups who are already working on solutions to intolerance and make their presence known on campus.
He said he hopes that a united student response would discourage further intolerance. “Student response is a lot more powerful [than administration’s],” he said. “When your peers are speaking out against it, you realize you’re in the wrong.”
Asbury applauds student efforts. “They have some exciting ideas for funding groups that are diverse to encourage them to work together across differences,” she said. “This is something that folks in the outside world do all the time.”
Not everyone agrees that forming committees and making posters are useful responses. Junior Justin Ward said that he believes that campus wide e-mails and classes on awareness are ineffective. “It’s really just a waste of time,” he said. “You’re either preaching to the choir or your message is falling on deaf ears.”
Ward said the only appropriate response he can think of is for the administration to punish the perpetrators and to make harsher penalties for these types of acts.
One of the solutions that has been proposed at student meetings is a zero tolerance policy that would have to be implemented by the administration.
Associate Dean of Student Discipline Ken Rockensies explained that the punishment for acts such as these is decided on a case by case basis. “We have no predetermined sanctions,” he said.
Rockensies said that there are a lot of details that are not in favor of zero tolerance and that it is probably in the best interest of the university not to have any predetermined punishments. “You want to have some breathing room in making sanctions,” he said.
Asbury said she believes that an evaluation of the disciplinary policy is valuable. “Zero tolerance policy will be an important thing to study with students,” she said. “There are some questions I have but we will look at it and other options very carefully.”
Taylor can be reached at Ktaylor@campustimes.org.
Schnee can be reached at Cschnee@campustimes.org.