Vassar continues to be shaken by hate speech

[Trigger warning: hate speech, death threats, homophobia]

In the early afternoon of March 2, a student reported what is the most recent in a string of hateful speech on Vassar’s campus. This message, like some of those that came before it, was written in the library bathroom wall. Written in magic marker, it read, “To all black students we should unite & slaughter ALL THE WHITES.”

Just a day before, on March 1, a student reported another bias incident: A threatening note was slid under the student’s door that read “Leave my country or I’ll kill you.” The student reported having received a phone call from a private number as well. The student told Safety and Security that the caller spoke to them, saying, “I’ve been watching you.”

The day before the hateful note, a bias incident report was filed for a message found at the Kiosk in the student center. A student reported that the words “Gay Love/Gay Hate Fuck Fags” was found written on a petition at the Kiosk.

Safety and Security responded to each incident, and the Town of Poughkeepsie police were notified.

Interim President Jon Chenette wrote an email Thursday in response to the incidents. “In recent days,” he wrote, “we have seen hateful and violent speech aimed at various groups and individuals based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnic/cultural background … This time a different group was threatened. But to me, this is the same message – a message of hate. A message of intolerance. A message in opposition to everything we at Vassar believe.”

Chenette commented on the general trend of hatred as well. “If the purpose of hate speech is to intimidate, then to me, this is proof that these pathetic individuals have failed. Because in the face of individuals filled with hate, we respond. We respond with action, with compassion, and with strength. And that, to me, is a far stronger message than anything that can be scrawled on a bathroom wall.”.

Dean of Students Adriana diBartolo addressed the student body in an email of her own. The Dean of Students reminded students of the resources available to them on campus, such as counseling services and support groups. “With the bias events of the past few weeks and upcoming mid-terms along with spring break,” diBartolo said in her email Friday, “I know students may be feeling tired and overwhelmed. All students, especially Black students and historically marginalized students, deserve to feel support and care during this time.” diBartolo also referred to support offered by Residential Life and House Teams, and provided a phone number students could dial to speak with an Administrator on call.

Both Chenette and diBartolo hoped to heal and reassure with their responses. “I want to remind our community that all students deserve a campus where they can achieve their academic goals and can thrive,” diBartolo wrote Friday. diBartolo’s words echoed those of Chenette, who wrote in a Feb. 24 email, “We will not allow ignorance and hatred to prevail. Instead I am hopeful, as I wrote in my last message, that we will stand together as a community and stand up to those who would divide us.”

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