ALINA PANEK — In the past two weeks, several multicultural organizations have experienced vandalism to their event advertisement posters in the Slayter elevator. The following examples are only some of the cases that have contributed to a history of poster vandalism on Denison’s campus.
On February 11, Lariona Jacobs ‘20 posted on the Student Body Facebook group about the partial rip in the poster of the BSU freshman foundation advertising ‘Love yourself” with the picture of the Obamas ripped out. She posted a video of displaying the rip with the caption, “So whoever did this to my first year exec board’s flyer not only are you corny but you have no morals. My first years took their time to create these flyers and for you to rip out the Obama’s picture is weak & low. Nowhere on this flyer is offensive language or photos so for you to be that childish to rip off their BEAUTIFUL faces, you have a serious problem. And if you were a bystander to this, you equally as corny…” In the comments of the post, Hamna Siddiqui ‘19 commented, “I am so sorry about this. This is totally racist and unacceptable. I found posters that were ripped in the elevator last week and I found tape to fix them and put them back up. I did notice the faces of the two women of color ripped off from the Women’s Leadership Development Conference poster that was in the elevator but unfortunately I wasn’t able to tape those missing pieces together…”
On March 29, Fatima Haroon ‘21 posted on the Facebook group “Denison University Class of 2021” a picture of several posters advertising MSA’s human rights week. Half of the six posters had been ripped from the top. She posted this picture with the caption “Whoever tore this poster seems to have no respect for the hard work put into this poster and towards the cause itself. This kind of behavior is disgusting and shows that we as a campus, have a lot of work to do.”
On April 9, Alex Drumm ‘20 posted on the same Facebook group regarding a Sigma Lambda Gamma poster, an Multicultural Greek Council sorority, promoting “Gamma Week 2019” with three fists in three different skin raised to the air. Only the darkest skin color was ripped partially from the poster along with the caption, “This is unacceptable behavior and uncalled for. Please do better Denison.”
The recent vandalism includes the destruction of segments or the entirety of the posters, that in several cases depict symbols of pride for people of color or famous celebrities like the Obamas. On April 12, Rakeb Girma ‘21 posted a picture of a ripped poster advertising Culture Jam’s concert featuring Young M.A, a young black female American rapper and entrepreneur from Brooklyn on the Facebook group Denison University Student Body, along with the caption: “At this point the disrespect needs to stop. This [expletive] is overplayed, childish and racist!!!! Periodt!!!!!”
After a series of these incidents, the members of the student body are calling for administrative action as they believe that this can no longer be claimed as accidents that occur in the elevator.
“This disrespectful tactic seems to only affect people of color and not white organizations,” Drumm said. “This is done on purpose and only occurs toward media where it showcases People of Color. This is showcasing that this institution still has racist biases that come out whenever people of color organizations want to shine. This happened twice in a week which I think is outrageous and no one is addressing it.”
This type of vandalism is not new to campus, and upperclassmen have noticed in the past that vandals not only target multicultural posters advertising student events but posters advertising professors and College Republican posters.
President of the College Republicans Nathaniel Beach said this about the attacks. “Throughout the past few years following the unprecedented election of President Donald Trump, our group has seen many flyers for speaker events torn down and destroyed. It is really heartbreaking to see, as immature attacks on group’s events and core values does nothing but cause animosity and division.”
Tima Kaba has also noticed the frequency with which it has happened. “I definitely feel like it’s been happening a lot more often, and the fact that it’s geared towards specific posters make it seem like it’s intentional,” Kaba said. “However, I am not sure if other posters get ripped as well and goes unnoticed. I remember a professor’s face was ripped off of a poster earlier this semester. Nonetheless, I don’t want to say that it is intentional because I like to hold the Denison community on a high standard. But it is truly disappointing to see that people’s hard work get such disrespect. I know how hard it is to put a poster together.”
Another senior feels that the vandalism is a representation of tensions on campus which should prompt immediate administrative action.
“We are seeing a physical manifestation of ill feelings toward people of color on campus,” Ruben Fernandez ‘19 said. “The stray looks that I’m given on a daily basis walking through campus, it’s been focused into the posters. In regards to what the administration could do, they can own up and bear the responsibility of accommodating us and making us feel like we have their 100% support. That looks like hiring counselors of color, counselors who can speak foreign languages, coming out right and condemning these blatant targeted messages…Taking real action and not just talking about it.
Addressing the possible situation that this might be just a series of accidents, Rafa Guzman ‘19 talks about how placement and location are important to note for these incidents. All of the posters were taped onto the Slayter elevator where there is currently no security camera.
“The posters are placed pretty high above for someone to mistakenly rip it apart,” Guzman said. “…This is not an accident, it is clear that someone is doing this to enrage the community here at Denison. I think that this just makes the Denison community feel less like a community. In a community you are supposed to care for each other and accept one another but with these acts it does not feel like this.”
Kaba has shared sentiments that this vandalism has disrupted community relations but she still holds out hope for the future.
“I definitely think this is something that it is pulled us farther apart,” Kaba said. “…However, I strongly believe that the Denison community can do better and be better. I think we need to continue to have difficult conversation about these kinds of issues. I will also tell people whose posters are been destroyed to never fall for it, people hurt you or disturb your peace to get a reaction out of you… But, I am not saying don’t speak up! Call people out, that’s the only way we can be better.”