Faculty and students voice concerns over safety after election

The recent presidential election has resulted in protests raging across the country — including locally — and a sense of discontent on college campuses.

But this feeling manifested before the election in the form of threatening graffiti.

“Some of my students and classmates have expressed fear regarding the hate-filled sentiments that are being expressed around USF’s campus and on college campuses across the nation,” Viki Peer, a graduate student in Women’s and Gender Studies, said.

One such example, according to Peer, is the graffiti written on the walls of one of the residence halls.

“Graffiti was found on the walls with racial undertones that specified various individuals’ names and that if Hillary Clinton won, there would be death,” University Police Public Information Officer Renna Reddick said. “Similar types of messages were placed under their doors.”

University representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

Reddick said the graffiti was made with a dry erase marker that was easily removed. 

Since  there was no permanent damage, Reddick said, the incident has not been categorized as “criminal mischief,” but UP is still actively investigating, which is why the name of the hall has yet to be released.

UP met — in conjunction with housing — with students after the incident to encourage students to come forward with anything they might know that could help solve the case. Reddick said the meeting lasted for about three hours with 40 students in attendance. 

UP has also increased patrols in the area.

“Safety is always a priority on campus,” Milton Wendland,  a professor with Women’s and Gender Studies, said. “Given events that are taking place across the nation, it makes sense that everyone in our campus community might take additional precautions. 

“Emotions often run high during big events like campaigns, and that can often lead people to say or do things that violate our collective USF commitment to inclusion and safety.”

Peer said she’s heard people are concerned not just with the act itself, but also by the fact UP didn’t notify students, who instead had to hear about it from an outside news source.

“I’m very concerned for the safety and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff at USF,” she said. “These explicit and public displays of racism and bigotry demonstrate the hostile environment on USF’s campus.

“Just because the racial slurs were able to be washed off doesn’t change the fact that a form of racially motivated harassment took place. This harassment seems to violate the student code of conduct … and the values that are outlined in the university’s current strategic plan.”

A similar incident occurred in the beginning of September in Cypress D when comments classified as racist and sexist were written on the walls and whiteboards, which were determined to be targeting a particular individual or individuals in the hall.

“I want the university to treat these incidents as racially motivated harassment and take measures to improve campus safety for all members of the USF community,” Peer said.

Two days after the election, System President Judy Genshaft released a message to students encouraging them  to continue embracing USF’s founding values of honoring and respecting each other’s diversity, ideas and beliefs regardless of their opinion on the election’s outcome.

Both Peer and Wendland expressed the belief that these safety concerns need to be addressed in a campus-wide manner.

“Addressing safety concerns has to be a campus-wide effort,” Wendland said. “As individuals we need to be aware of our surroundings and protect ourselves, but it is also important for campus administration, security, and individual departments and offices to take action as well.

“We are already seeing many student organizations and campus offices working to increase awareness of basic safety and reaching out to people across campus to establish buddy systems, for example.”