Racially biased graffiti was left on a student's whiteboard early Saturday morning in the Choates Residence Cluster, according to an email from Safety and Security sergeant Lauren Cummings. The graffiti, which was discovered on the first floor of Brown Hall, reportedly contained a derogatory term for a black individual, according to students on the floor.
This marks the second time this school year that racially charged comments were left in the Choates. Bigoted remarks were found on campaign materials supporting President Barack Obama on the third floor of Brown in November.
The individual who discovered the graffiti on his or her whiteboard reported it to Safety and Security officers, who took a photo and immediately erased it, Safety and Security director Harry Kinne said in a discussion on campus climate held in the Bissell and Cohen common room on Monday.
"The first part of the message was positive," Kinne said. "The second part of that message appeared to be directed towards that individual, and it was a racist statement."
Safety and Security began "knocking on doors" immediately after the report was filed and contacted students in the immediate area, Kinne said. The message was likely left late Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to the email.
"We're still narrowing down a time frame," Kinne said. "We're still interviewing people."
Safety and Security arrived around 1 am to interview students, Shih-Tzer Dawn '16, a resident of first floor Brown, said. The officers would not tell students what was written on the whiteboard, and most students did not see the message because they were out of the residence hall, Dawn said.
The racist message may not have been directed at the student whose whiteboard it was written on, because neither resident of the room where the incident was reported is black, Rossi said.
The floor "gets a lot of drunk people wandering through all the time, and people write things on white boards all the time," Will Rossi '16 said. "I don't really think it was directed at anyone."
After a bias incident is reported, students involved speak to Safety and Security and an undergraduate advisor or other relevant resource.
The Bias Incident Response Team mobilizes resources to aid students who are most directly affected, Office of Pluralism and Leadership director Alysson Satterlund said. Following the report, the team works to gain more information and "restore justice" to the community, she said.
The discussion on Monday was organized by OPAL, Safety and Security and Residential Education and aimed to address the campus environment in light of the recent incident. OPAL Pan-Asian and Asian-American advisor and assistant dean Aeriel Anderson facilitated the discussion between faculty, administrators and students.
"These voices need to be heard," Satterlund said. "The fear and concern, the expectations that a climate has improved that has to be processed. You can't deny people that opportunity."
Both administrators and students voiced their distress for current intolerance, their appreciation for the steps taken so far to address the incident and their desire to make significant changes going forward.
"[Dartmouth] is a microcosm of society at large, so while it's no surprise that ugly and hateful things pop up here," Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said in the discussion. "The fact that we're a microcosm and some of what we see is going on out there in the world does not mean that we should become anesthetized."
In order to address ongoing concerns about intolerance at the College, the Bias Incident Response Team is hosting a series of forums beginning Friday. The College will also address racism, sexism and homophobia on campus through educational programs, Satterlund said.
"What we're hoping to do is to roll out an education piece on why it's so important to report bias, how to report bias, what tools are available and start to educate faculty and staff and students to recognize bias," she said.
Students present at the discussion also had ideas to institutionalize education against bias, particularly for first-year students. Many incidents occur in or near freshman residence halls because these students can bring in prejudice from their homogenous hometown communities, Anneliese Sendax '13, who has worked as a UGA for three years, said at the discussion.
"[Students] often come in, for example, saying something homophobic, and by the time they leave or are juniors they are an advocate for the community," she said.
The Inter-Community Council has discussed instituting an academic requirement to promote change, according to Sendax.
"The idea of maybe taking out one [social analysis distributive] or [international or comparative study distributive] and maybe integrating a social justice component into the curriculum came up a class dedicated to fostering a sense of community, responsibility and accountability into the vision of education at Dartmouth," Sendax said.
First-year students participating in the discussion echoed Sendax's sentiments. Inviolata Chami '16 said that it is easy to accept Dartmouth cultural norms and become apathetic.
Other students suggested changing the terminology used in formal discussions of prejudice, arguing that the use of the word "bias" in the official email was counterproductive. "Why call this a bias incident' instead of calling it a hate crime or racism?" Melissa Centeno '13 said. "They send a very explicit message when they use ambiguous language. It lets people off the hook when they're hearing about it both the perpetrators and the people who do nothing about it."
Interim College President Carol Folt sent a campus-wide email about the racial graffiti on Sunday evening.
Going forward, OPAL will use feedback and insight gained from Monday's discussion in designing an inter-group dialogue model, Satterlund said.
"Inter-group dialogue is an opportunity for faculty, staff and students and sometimes alumni to come together around coordinated conversation about difficult issues to talk about race, class, sexism, homophobia and privilege in ways that allow both me to get to know you, and you to get to know me, but also to understand the impacts of my language, my actions on you and vice versa," she said. "There's lots of opportunities here to develop that, but essentially we have to take Dartmouth back."
Representatives from Safety and Security could not be reached for comment, and first floor Brown UGA Alexander Kaye '15 and Choates community director Daniel Smith declined to comment.