Thanks to “aparent” for pointing out this Record article.

Students discovered racial slurs and several drawings of male genitalia on the walls and doors of Williams Hall E early Saturday morning. The word “nigger” was written on two second-floor common room door signs and on the door sign of the nearby custodian’s office. A Security investigation is ongoing.

Ahh. This explains the differing reports about whether the slur was written on two doors or three. It was written on two student doors but on three doors in total. I can’t find the on-line floor plan for Williams Hall, but is the custodian’s office on the second floor as well? So, our perp walked up to the second floor and did his deed on all the doors that were there? Is it obvious to a non-resident that the custodian’s office door is not a student door? Much of this seems to make a hoax less likely. If you are a hoaxer, you want to be certain that people interpret your actions as an attack. Writing on the (white) custodian’s door mixes up your message.

More analysis and commentary below.

Still, that the graffiti was on the second floor means that our performance artist went out of his way to put his mark there as opposed to some place more easily accessible. This makes serious ill-intent, as opposed to just drunken stupidity, more likely.

The first racial slur posting was found at around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, when a resident of the entry found “nigger” written on a white board on the landing between the first and second floors. No additional vandalism was reported until Williams E JA, Richard McDowell ’09 discovered the marked signs on the second floor around 9:15 a.m.

Can we nail down the time a little more closely? Surely there were students going up and down those stairs at 10, 11, even 12. Was the graffiti large enough that none of them could have missed it? We can assume (?) that all the graffiti went up at once. When did the residents of the two second floor rooms turn in for the night?

And, by the way, if I were a security officer I would want to closely question whoever “discovered” the graffiti.

“I found and removed the signs in the morning when I woke up,” said McDowell, who placed the posters in his room and called Security roughly an hour later.

Meanwhile, residents of the entry saw the penises drawn on some of the entry’s walls. According to McDowell, the drawn penises could not be erased and remained on the walls all weekend.

All of the vandalism was done in permanent marker, which has led some residents of the entry to believe that the incidents are related. One resident said, “Everywhere there was the word ‘nigger’ there was also a penis,” signaling the likelihood of a single perpetrator.

That makes sense. In fact, this is a single perpetrator almost trying to get caught. To do a bunch of nasty graffiti at a relatively early hour on the second floor of an entry in which you do not (?) live is to run a real risk of getting caught. Unless you had reasons for not worrying, like a look-out. Even then, how could you know that the residents of those rooms weren’t about to come out the door unless you had very good intelligence about their schedules.

The resident, an occupant of one of the tagged suites, was not convinced that the slurs were personally directed. He said that while there were two African-American students whose doors were drawn on, those doors also belonged to Caucasian students, in addition to the third door that belonged solely to a Caucasian custodian. “That obviously is no excuse,” the resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “It just means that this might not have been directed at any particular people.”

I think that I can safe from accusations of rampant PC-ery, but come on! If you write “nigger” and draw penises on the suite doors of male African American students, you are pretty obviously directing your comments at some very specific people. Are there any other suites with African American students in Willy E?

Also, if I were Record reporter Jared Quinton, I would want to know more about this resident. Am I safe in assuming that he is not African American? I assume that Quinton knows his race but revealing it would remove (most of) his source’s anonymity.

Following McDowell’s call on Saturday morning, Security, in conjunction with the Dean’s Office, has been investigating the incident. On Sunday, Security and the Dean’s Office met with 20 residents of the entry for questioning. Jean Thorndike, director of campus security, declined to comment on which students had been questioned, within or outside of the entry.

Note the time line. A student sees the graffiti at 1:45 AM and doesn’t tell anyone. I guess that this is vaguely plausible. You don’t want to wake up your JAs. You don’t think that this merits a call to security. You have plans and don’t want to be bothered. But then you also don’t take down the offensive posters? Hmmmm. I would have acted differently. What would you have done?

Quinton does not make clear who is the source for this 1:45 AM claim. Did he get that directly from the student? Did he hear it from a security officer on the case? Was this the same student who is his anonymous source?

The reason all this matters is that it provides clues as to the perp’s identity and motive. Many hoaxes are initially reported by the hoaxer. Only someone with extensive knowledge of entry schedules would have been comfortable writing graffiti at a time when many students, especially on a Friday night during Winter Study, are still up and about. And then, to claim (without much reasoning) that this might not have been directed at anyone, is, perhaps, an indication that you know that this was either a hoax (and hope the whole thing goes away) or a stupid prank (with no ill-intent on your part).

Thorndike confirmed the ongoing search, but offered no specifics or timetable for its completion. “Searches like this can go on for a long time, depending on what kind of information we get,” she said. Thorndike stressed the importance of the anonymous tipline, and said it may prove essential to the investigation. “Students never want to turn other students in,” she said. “But if it can be completely untraceable and anonymous, maybe we’ll get something.”

If you are the perp, you should be concerned. Lose the pen. Lose anything that you might have written on with that pen. Older Ephs will recall the Tufts students who painted JUMBOS in huge letters on the Chapin columns several years ago. They were caught when the College/police analyzed the paint, determined the manufacturer, and traced all recent purchases. Sure enough, those idiot Tufts students had bought the paint on their way to Williamstown with a credit card. The College will try just as hard to find you.

And, if you are the College, you can be sure that that permanent marker was used elsewhere.

On Saturday evening, Dean Merrill informed students of the incident in an all-campus email, stating that the College had begun investigating and that the Williamstown Police Department had been notified.

Merrill also expressed concern for the campus’ sense of community and trust. “Such behavior clearly violates our standards of conduct on campus,” she wrote. “It also fundamentally attacks our sense of community and the bonds of trust we aspire to build among all members of the college.”

College Council co-presidents Morgan Goodwin ’08 and Kim Dacres ’08 followed with an all-campus email on Sunday afternoon. They detailed a few specifics of the incident and reiterated a sense of concern. In addition, Goodwin and Dacres invited students to share their “stories” of similar incidents. “We want to engage the campus and ask, what can we do, both structurally and on a very informal level to foster respect and protect our community against harm,” they wrote.

Again, don’t take about “stories” unless you are going to share them with us.

That night, Williams E addressed the incident at entry snacks. According to McDowell, entry residents did not share a belief that anyone had been directly targeted by the racial slurs. “Everyone thought it was silly,” he said. “They didn’t see it as directly attacking anyone, but some were obviously more affected.”

Huh? I am really confused. And am I wrong to be curious about McDowell’s race? I also wish that Quinton had interviewed some African American JAs and first years from other entries. I bet that they don’t think it was “silly.”

Something weird is going on in Willy E . . .

And we still need a scandal name. Willy and penises? Help me out people!

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