Editor’s note: This article refers to the usage of slurs and symbols that could upset some readers.
Students are concerned following The Spectrum’s report of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs and symbols found on a Knox Hall bathroom stall Friday.
On Friday at 7 p.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist University Police in investigating the graffiti, which included the N-word, two swastikas and a homophobic slur written in red marker. Cuomo’s announcement came six hours after The Spectrum notified UPD of the writing.
A University Facilities crew removed the graffiti immediately after UPD located it, according to UB spokesperson John DellaContrada and UPD Deputy Chief Joshua Sticht.
Cuomo, in a statement, said he was "disgusted" by the graffiti.
"In New York, there is no place for hate, and we will continue to rise up and condemn every cowardly act, anywhere it appears that targets and threatens people because of their race, religion or sexual orientation," Cuomo said.
UB President Satish Tripathi sent a community-wide email Friday night following Cuomo's announcement, stating that "racism and hatred will not be tolerated" at UB.
"I believe that this deplorable act is not indicative of who we are as a university community," Tripathi wrote. “And, this appears to be an isolated incident. Regardless, together we must seek to cultivate and nurture an environment where racism, intolerance and hatred are rendered extinct."
Sticht wrote in an email that UPD has had 18 reports of graffiti so far this year, with two involving swastikas, one including an “anti-African-American reference” and one homophobic reference. The Spectrum reported on similar anti-Semitic graffiti in 2016, when UPD investigated slurs written on a men's bathroom stall in Capen Hall.
The discovery comes amidst protests at Syracuse University where at least 14 racist or bias-related occurrences have been reported since Nov. 7, according to The Daily Orange. Student protesters, part of the #NotAgainSU movement, criticized SU’s four-day delay in response to racist graffiti found in a dormitory.
After an eight-day protest of SU’s handling of the situation and SU Chancellor Kent Syverud’s agreeance to an “edited” version of the group’s 18 demands, the group is still calling for Syverud’s resignation. Some of the demands that Syverud agreed to included stricter consequences for hate speech and mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff.
Some students, like sophomore psychology major Brandon Hoolihan, were surprised to find about the graffiti when they opened Tripathi’s email.
“It seems like the issues at SU are now inspiring other people at UB, which is honestly horrendous,” Hoolihan said. “And I think this campus tries to at least make good efforts toward diversity. So I think speech like this, especially in public settings, is terrible.”
Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Sharon Nolan-Weiss wrote in an email that anyone who feels they are “subject to a hostile environment on any discriminatory basis” may consult with her office.
“It is important to remember that individuals who look to upset and offend others through graffiti do not represent the values held by the UB community,” Nolan-Weiss wrote.
Marc Duqueney, a senior communication and sociology major at UB, said he hasn’t seen hateful graffiti before at UB, but remembers The Spectrum’s Nov. 7 report of a local contractor bringing a confederate flag to campus. He said he’s also heard of the 2015 “white only” and “black only” signs that a student posted on campus for an art project.
“[I’m] sad and disappointed but becoming less and less surprised with the growing incidents,” Duqueney said. “I don’t know, I naively thought this state and school would be exempt from bigotry.”
“So far I like [UB’s] action, but I’m waiting to see if it goes anywhere.”
Ishitri Bandyopadhyay, a senior biomedical sciences major, said she felt the graffiti was unsettling because UB is a “very diverse place.”
“I know that Syracuse recently had its incident with racial slurs, but I just feel like we're in a time now where that shouldn't even be showing up anymore,” Bandyopadhyay said.
“I would think that people realize that a lot of people come from other backgrounds and if you come to a school like this, you should be open to [that] fact.”
Sticht wrote that when the community reports graffiti quickly, UPD has a “better chance of locating” those responsible.
UB encourages anyone with information about the graffiti to contact UPD at 716-645-2227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alexandra Moyen contributed reporting to this story.
Brenton J. Blanchet is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet.
Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.