‘I fell to the floor in absolute disgust’: Racist graffiti discovered at University of Richmond

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 11:35 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Students at the University of Richmond are taking a stand after racist graffiti was found on at least three students’ dorm rooms.

Over the weekend, the University of Richmond Police Department was made aware of three incidents where there was vandalism of student nametags with “possible intimidation with a racial and national origin bias in our resident halls.”

Two of those incidents occurred in Marsh Hall, however, the specific location of the third case is unknown.

“The offender(s) is unknown at this time, and we have limited information about these offensive slurs directed at specific individuals,” URPD said in an email over the weekend. “All three incidents occurred over the past two days.”

“Around 10 a.m. a police officer knocked on my door and I had no idea what happened,” said Maha Hassan, a sophomore. “I opened the door and I stepped outside and I turned around and saw an ethnic slur written about the fact I’m from Pakistan. I sort of just fell to the floor in absolute disgust."

That was Saturday morning, the same morning when Ahmed Elnaggar found a racist slang term for the word terrorist written on his dorm room nametag.

"It hit deep at home because I am middle eastern and there’s a lot of stereotypes behind my culture and religion,” Elnaggar, a freshman, said. “It got me.”

“It’s unacceptable and it’s disgusting that we have people on this campus who really do not want us here,” said Gabbie Armon-Wickers, a freshman.

Friday morning, Armon-Wickers found the “n-word” written on her name tag. She immediately reported it to campus police, her dean and the University President.

President Ronald Crutcher wrote an email Friday morning reading in part:

“This morning we learned that overnight a severely disturbing racial epithet was written on the residence hall door of an African-American student. This cowardly and racist act is profoundly hurtful and deeply offensive. The fact that this occurred on our campus the very week we commemorate the birth and historical legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes this all the more disgusting…

…We will not tolerate members of our community being targeted for harassment based on their identities. We must come together as a community to denounce racist actions and to support and embrace members of our community who are subject to such conduct. I am working closely with the Bias Resource Team and other campus officials to help ensure those affected get the support they need, to respond fully to this incident otherwise, and to continue to work to make our campus a place where all people are welcome and secure.”

However, following Friday’s discovery, both Elnaggar and Hassan reported their incidents to police Saturday.

“To deter these types of incidents in which a hate crime can occur when certain criminal offenses, including damage/vandalism of property or intimidation motivated by bias directed at an individual, URPD are increasing their presence at Marsh Hall and are also available to any community member across campus,” URPD said.

Meanwhile, these students said they won’t be silenced. Dozens of students attended Saturday’s men’s basketball game against the University of Dayton to protest these acts of racism.

After sitting quiet for most of the first half, the group started chanting “We Want Justice” before halftime.

Even while she was there, Armon-Wickers claims racism was present.

“I heard the n-word said to me a few times, and even students started to hear 'put those posters down we don't want to see that,'" Armon-Wickers said.

“We needed to get our voices heard to everybody there,” Hassan said. “We thought it was the best place to do that in the most peaceful way possible.”

On Sunday, President Crutcher wrote:

“The incidents of racism on our campus these past few days are hateful and harmful. I was deeply moved and proud of our students, who were so effective at last night’s basketball game, silently protesting and standing together to say that racism of any type has no place at our University.”

Now, student organizations at the university are planning for more dialogue. An open-mic will be held Tuesday at 12 p.m. at The Forum for students to voice their concerns about what happened.

Crutcher has also organized a campus community meeting on Thurs. Jan. 30 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Alice Haynes Room of the Commons.

“The University’s other leaders and I want to hear from you about your perspectives, concerns, and suggestions,” Crutcher said. “We have invited student leaders to provide guidance in planning our meeting… As we come together as a community, we will demonstrate in a clear and public way that each individual on this campus is valued and that their voice will be heard.”

However, Hassan said this kind of discussion needs involvement from the entire student body.

"I don't think the conversations are going to be particularly helpful unless everyone is involved in it,” she said. “It can't just be a minority group sitting there when no one else is listening to them except each other. That's not going to create any change."

“People are just close-minded,” Elnaggar said. “They have this idea of ‘I want to be right’ and won’t accept anybody’s opinions. They just have this mindset and just want everybody to follow it.”

Anyone who has information relevant to these acts of racism on the UR campus is urged to contact URPD at (804) 289-8715.

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