Racially charged graffiti angers students, dining hall employees

Davenport College dining hall employees reacted with anger after they discovered graffiti containing a crude racial epithet along a wall outside the York Street entrance to Pierson College on Tuesday morning.

The words “nigger school” were scrawled in bright red spray paint on a wall visible from the Davenport College dining hall loading dock outside of the main entrance to Pierson sometime between Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, according to several eyewitnesses. Yale Police Department spokesman Sgt. Steven Woznyk said the YPD does not know who is responsible for the incident but will continue to investigate the matter.

After being scrubbed away and covered up, graffiti on a wall near Pierson College’s entrance is barely visible from the Davenport dining hall.
Tyler Hill
After being scrubbed away and covered up, graffiti on a wall near Pierson College’s entrance is barely visible from the Davenport dining hall.

A cleanup crew arrived soon after the vandalism was reported and spent several hours vigorously scrubbing the paint with wire brushes and chemicals. But the words were still faintly visible after the cleanup, and workers placed a row of blue recycling bins in front of the graffiti after the crew finished.

Davenport dining services employee Sean Moore said workers attempted to cover the graffiti with a black garbage bag and tape before the cleanup crew arrived. Wanda Underwood and another Davenport dining services employee who asked to remain anonymous said University officials responded promptly after hearing of the graffiti.

Joanne Ursini, a Davenport dining services staff member who works the morning shift, said she first learned about the graffiti when she heard students at breakfast laughing and using the word “nigger.”

“You let something like that go, you let a lot go,” she said. “I don’t approve of that word, I don’t use that word. That word’s been ostracized for a reason.”

Woznyk said the YPD responded quickly to the reported vandalism after being notified of it at 10:20 Monday morning. The YPD is “not happy about it,” he said.

Although he does not know whether a Yale student or a passerby is responsible for the vandalism, Davenport Master Richard Schottenfeld said he thinks the act was damaging to the entire University community.

“Hate speech or hate writing violate the core values of Yale,” he said. “These issues unfortunately just don’t go away. They require eternal vigilance.”

It can often be difficult for a community to deal with the fallout from an instance of hate speech, Schottenfeld said.

“People may ask ‘Is this accepted?’ ‘By whom?’ ‘Am I being singled out?’ ” he said. “It’s important that we address these things and make it clear that these types of actions are not accepted.”

Most students interviewed said they were unaware of the graffiti, and a majority of those who were aware said they only knew about it because they saw workers attempting to clean up the wall late Tuesday morning.

Of those who knew the graffiti’s message, most students reacted with puzzlement.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Temesgen Sahle ’10, the secretary of the Black Student Alliance at Yale, said. “We’re pretty much a minority here — 8 percent of the population — but it does make you feel unwelcome.”

Wozynk declined to say who reported the incident to the YPD.

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