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Fort Lewis College Community Responds to Graffiti Incident
Fort Lewis College Community Responds to Graffiti Incident

Fort Lewis College Community Responds to Graffiti Incident

By: Benjamin Mandile

Saturday, February 16, 2019 | Number of views (3091)

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. Please check theindyonline.com for more coverage.

Students living in the five dormitories in the quad woke up Friday morning to spray-painted obscenities on all of the residence halls and the Miller Student Services building.

The red graffiti was also found on a number of students’ personal vehicles parked near the dorms, on the roadways and various other locations on the west side of campus.

The graffiti featured vulgar language that targeted a female student.

“This is unacceptable,” student body president Chance Salway said. “We need to rally against hate such as this, and this is nowhere near representative of the values we hold dear at FLC.”

The Independent spoke with the victim who said she was off campus when she learned of the incident. She received a phone call from her roommate early Friday morning to inform her that the police had come to their dorm in response to the incident.

The Independent is withholding the identity of the student for privacy reasons.

The student returned to campus to speak with the FLC Police department and said that they were helpful and that they listened to what she had to say. She woke up to many messages of support in response to the incident, she said.

The FLC Police said they were investigating the incident but did not have any suspects as of Friday afternoon.

FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said that if the perpetrator is found there will be legal and disciplinary consequences.

This type of speech could fall under the sexual harassment policy for reputational abuse and could be considered prohibited behavior if it is repeated and severe, Molly Wieser, the FLC Title IX coordinator said.

In an email sent to the FLC community, FLC Police Chief Brett Deming urged anyone who witnessed the incident or suspicious activity Thursday night to call their office. Witnesses can remain anonymous by submitting a Silent Witness Form.

In response to the incident, FLC Student Affairs organized an event inviting students to change the narrative surrounding the graffiti.

Around 20 students and some faculty members met in the Terry R. Bacon Leadership Center Friday afternoon to create posters and walk across campus in support of the victim. The group chanted anti-slut shaming rhetoric before putting the signs around the quad.

Jackson Suazo, a sophomore at FLC, attended the event because he has had family members who have also faced public shaming.

“It brought back a lot of memories when I was little, being taught to be respectful of women,” he said. “But in reality not all boys are taught like that.”

Suazo said that he attended the rally to show support and stand as an ally.   

“When you have women in your life that are in need, especially ones that are being victimized, then you need to make sure that you are not only their support but their ally,” Suazo said.

In the email sent to the FLC community on behalf of the President’s Office, Julie Love, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, encouraged those left feeling in need of support to reach out to their resident assistants or residence directors, the Counseling Center, or Meghan Walsh, a professional advocate on campus.

Davis said that graffiti is common on college campuses across the country, but not usually to this extent.

“This is fairly unusual to have this much graffitti happen all at once,” he said.

Davis said that graffitti tends to inspire others to follow, so it is best to remove it as quickly as possible.

“The longer it stays up, the more chance there is that other people will join in with graffitti of their own,”he said.

Custodial teams worked Friday to clean the paint off of the windows and doors. A local cleaning and restoration company was also contacted Friday to clean the paint off of the stone, Don Rightsell, a structural trade supervisor for the FLC Physical Plant said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to credit Student Affairs with creating the event.

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