After a racial slur defaced a Little Building elevator Saturday morning, Director of Housing and Residence Life David Haden emailed residents of the dormitory warning of the damage, and encouraged students to reflect upon how the crime can be negatively interpreted by others.
The Emerson College Police Department is currently investigating an incident in which the N-word was found written on a fifth floor elevator door. The words “black people, Jews, and Christians” were also discovered inside an elevator car. ECPD officers said an incident report was filed, but could not comment further because the investigation is ongoing.
Haden said in the email that when vandalism is found in a dormitory, residents should confront the issue as an opportunity to create a more positive living environment.
“As members of the LB community, you are responsible not only for your own actions, but also for any actions that you witness that impact the larger community,” the email said.
On Saturday, around 6 a.m., Little Building resident assistant Aubrianne LaDuke said she discovered the vandalism. LaDuke said she covered up the slur using tape to prevent others from seeing it and also found “Black people, Jews and Christians” written on the inside of the elevator car.
Facilities management immediately removed the writing after LaDuke reported it, she said.
In response to the graffiti, LaDuke and fellow RA Alexander Hoder, along with Assistant Residence Director Max Moronel, held a meeting in the common room on the fifth floor of the 80 Boylston building on Saturday night. During the meeting, the 60 attendees were told about the crime and were urged to come forward with any information about who the vandal might be.
In an email to the Beacon, Dean of Students Ronald Ludman said this type of behavior was unacceptable.
“In my view, Emerson has made significant inroads and commitments to foster a welcoming and safe environment for all individuals; however, a hateful incident such as what occurred this weekend reminds us that we cannot become complacent and that we have more work to do. It is incumbent upon all of us to challenge and denounce all acts of disrespect and bigotry whenever it rears its ugly head,” said Ludman.
This is not the first time elevators in the building have been damaged. In the fall of 2011, burn marks appeared on the roof of elevator cars in the Little Building. Haden sent out an email to residents of the dormitory after that incident, stating that they would have to pay for the damage if the culprits did not identify themselves.
Haden did not mention any potential fine for residents in the email sent on Saturday.
Similarly, in 2008, graffiti with anti-semitic language was scrawled across one of the bathrooms of the Iwasaki Library.
According to the Undergraduate Student Handbook, if caught with proof of misconduct, the college can discipline, suspend, or expel students from the college and/or its programs.
Marina Altschiller, a freshman performing arts major, said she saw ECPD documenting the graffiti at the time of the incident. She said that although she supports the school’s zero tolerance attitude, she thinks administrators overreacted.
“I honestly think it was probably some drunk guy with a marker who thought it would be funny,” Altschiller said.
Moving forward, Tikesha Morgan, the director for multicultural student affairs, said she is planning to work with the Little Building staff to run programs on diversity and to teach students how they can stand up for themselves and their peers.
Morgan is also the advisor to Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI). Jessica Joseph, a senior marketing communication major, is the president of the group, and said she would support campus talks on diversity.
“While EBONI would definitely be a big supporter [of talking about it], I think that [the discussion] should be across all the cultural groups,” Joseph said.
Joseph said one place for students to talk about theses ideas are at Emerson TALKS events. According to the college’s website, Emerson TALKS has students teach their peers about diversity, cultural and social issues, and GLBTQ relations through discussions.
Haden said in an email interview that although these incidents only happen every few years, they can always be upsetting.
“We would hope that members of the Emerson community would always show more maturity and respect,” said Haden, “than to engage in this type of hurtful and destructive activity.”