On the afternoon of Sept. 11, Wittenberg community members received an email with the subject line “An Unfortunate Incident.” The email, sent from both Casey Gill, interim dean of students, and Don Lucas, chief of police, the email detailed that they had “learned of a note that was placed on a street pole sign in front of a non-university owned property on Woodlawn Avenue. … It is extremely unfortunate to report that the sign said, ‘No Nigger Whores.'” The morning of Sept. 13, colorful signs containing uplifting and positive messages appeared all over campus.
Junior Catherine May, said that “the signs are a good way to show that there are people out there that care. … There’s some hate, obviously, as we saw based on the hate note that was written, but I think that the signs kind of balance that out – there’s some positivity.” She also mentions that she saw a lot of “tweets and pictures about it, so people were doing something right.”
The email from Gill and Lucas expressed that they were “deeply saddened” that the incident had occurred, and reported that the Wittenberg police department and student life staff were able to respond quickly to the students “most directly affected” and that the police department is pursuing a “thorough investigation” to find the authors of the note, with the understanding that “this incident reaches far beyond those directly affected and wounds each and every one of us.
The emailed called for the compassionate community of Wittenberg to stand up against acts of bigotry, “to send a loud and clear message that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and antithetic to our Wittenberg values.”
Provost Chris Duncan followed the Friday appearance of signs with an email to “publicly thank whomever was responsible for the myriad of signs I saw posted around campus this morning proclaiming the strength of love.”
In a statement to the Torch, Duncan expressed that “the wounds that those who act from hate try to inflict on this community will be healed, but scares (sic) remain. I call on all the members of this community to be vigilant and stand up for what is right and to confront hate with love as some of our students did this morning.”
Freshman Matti Stevens said she “thought that they (the positive signs) were a nice surprise to wake up to in the morning” but “was disappointed by (the hate sign) and thought it was stupid and immature.”
Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs, John Young, reinforced that “we don’t know if this (the hate sign) comes from a member of the Wittenberg community or someone not affiliated with Wittenberg. If those responsible for the sign are not affiliated with Wittenberg, we are unlikely to reach them with our message and might and, unfortunately, expect more of this behavior.”
“Regardless of the source,” Young continues, “it provides an opportunity to engage the campus in conversations and the promotion of programs that educate the community around issues of diversity.”
Young also mentioned that on Sept. 8, “Multicultural Student Programs sponsored the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) program, A Campus of Difference. Representatives from several student organizations attended the four hour workshop. The workshop facilitators had students fill out an evaluation form on the workshop and the results will be sent to us to review and discuss next steps.”
Junior Menna Abaye thought that the first sign “affected everyone on campus.” However, she “love(s) that all these signs are here now…the whole campus is being involved against it, rather than last year where it was just like one group of people. . . . Wittenberg is a good community and we all fight against it together.”