Homophobic and derogatory remarks were scrawled on a window on the ground floor common room in the Fahey-McLane Residence Hall early Sunday morning, according to Rohail Premjee ’14, who discovered the writing at approximately 3:15 a.m. that day. The vandalism, which was located adjacent to the gender-neutral floor, has spurred concern in the bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender community. Gender-neutral hall residents are worried that the incident reveals negative undertones towards LGBT students on campus, various residents said in interviews with The Dartmouth.
The vandalism is “a strong indicator that there are still problems with gay acceptance on campus,” Andrew Longhi ’14, a resident of the gender-neutral floor, said.
John D’Antonio ’14 said the vandalism was “disgraceful,” and a “blatant attack on the LGBTQA community and the gender-neutral community.”
“I am neither intimiated nor threatened, just saddened by the few individuals that chose to partake in such a disappointing representation of the Dartmouth community,” he said in an email to The Dartmouth.
LGBT student advisor Pam Misener spoke with gender-neutral floor residents on Wednesday evening in meeting called specially to address the vandalism. Misener said the written slurs were “unfortunate and harmful behavior” but that there is no reason to believe the vandalism was targeted at an individual student or the gender-neutral floor in particular.
“My sense is there are some individual students that feel very hurt by it and are concerned by it,” Misener said.
Premjee said that after discovering the vandalism, he immediately attempted to alert the floor’s undergraduate advisor and called Safety and Security to report the incident.
Misener, who was notified of what happened by Safety and Security at approximately 8:30 a.m. the next morning, is “still trying to assess to what extent the effect of the incident is rippling out through student communities,” she said.
Safety and Security officers documented and cleaned the window according to protocol, Misener said.
An investigation of the incident is ongoing at multiple levels of administration, according to Misener. Safety and Security, the Dean of the College’s Office and the President’s Office are all aware of the prejudiced nature of the vandalism, she said.
Longhi, who heard about the vandalism from a friend but did not see the actual graffiti, said he is used to dealing with harassment and was “not that personally affected” by the incident, but that the vandalism is likely to most negatively affect members of the Class of 2015, as new students may still be trying to determine whether they feel comfortable revealing their sexual orientation.
“It’s the administration’s responsibility from here to ensure that the kind of community that they want to make Dartmouth doesn’t allow for incidents like this to happen,” Longhi said. “I would be disappointed if we didn’t use this experience to evolve.”
The vandalism was likely committed by students who were intoxicated, Longhi said.
The dormitory’s central location attracts significant traffic from non-residents, which may be a reason why it “routinely has more of this mischievous behavior and even damage” than other buildings, Misener said.
Longhi said he hopes the incident can be used as “a launching point to engage the Dartmouth community.”
Misener said she is currently working in cooperation with the students who were impacted to determine what steps will be taken in response to the incident.
“There’s no one sort of cookie cutter way that we manage these things,” Misener said. “We’ll try to measure people’s level of concern and see how we can meet them in a way that’s as constructive as possible. Depending on what we learn, that will inform what next steps happen.”
Misener said that these types of incidents can trigger “profound” learning experiences for the community.
“Whenever something like this happens, the process involves trying to assess for hurt and harm and also asking where the place is to then to create opportunities for growth and development,” she said.
Office of Pluralism and Leadership staff is available for students who feel hurt and harmed by the incident as well as for those “who are being cited for making a mistake and want to understand more about what they did wrong,” Misener said.
Students involved in acts of vandalism often come forward with an apology and a desire to learn about the mistakes they made after they realize that what they have done is harmful, Misener said.
“Those are the kinds of conversations I welcome,” she said.
College Proctor Harry Kinne could not be reached for comment by press time. Russell Sage Cluster Community Director Michelle Hector declined to comment.