By: Johnna Ossie, News Editor
For the second time since the start of the school year, USM administration and campus police are investigating anti-Muslim graffiti discovered by students on campus. The graffiti was discovered in a third floor classroom in Luther Bonney by students who reported it to campus security.
The words “kill the muslin (sic)” were written on an active shooter response poster, misspelling the word Muslim. The words were written above a figure hitting another figure with a chair below the section of the poster labeled “fight.” The poster has since been taken down, but students took photographs that have been circulating on social media.
In November, campus police investigated graffiti found in the Student Senate office in Woodbury Campus Center where the phrase “Deus Vult” had been written twice in permanent marker. The Latin phrase was used as a rallying cry during the Crusades but has more recently been used as an anti-Muslim sentiment by the “alt-right” white nationalist movement.
USM has been in the public spotlight multiple times this year, first for the “Deus Vult” graffiti, and later when conservative student group Young Americans For Freedom hosted Republican State Rep. Larry Lockman on campus, prompting student and community protest of Lockman’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Hate crimes in the U.S. have been on the rise since the 2016 election. NBC reports hate crime are up by almost 20 percent in metropolitan areas. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the months following the election, most hate incidents took place in America’s schools.
“This is not the first incident of such behavior on our campus this year. I truly wish I could assure you it will be the last,” wrote President Cummings in a campus-wide email the day after the most recent graffiti was discovered. “…While we can not control the behavior of every single person who finds their way onto our campus, I can assure you our approach is that even one incident is too many and will not be tolerated.”
A campus-wide email from Student Body President Humza Khan called the graffiti “an outrageous, completely unacceptable, and heinous act of hatred.”
Students were informed that there would be staff available on all three campuses to discuss the graffiti and any issues around Islamophobia in the days following the incident.
The investigation is ongoing. Bob Stein, executive director of Public Affairs and Marketing, reports that President Cummings sought assistance from Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, who has involved the Portland Police Department in the investigation. According to Stein, the Portland Police have more resources than campus security for investigating the incident.
“It’s my understanding that essentially we have an investigation, and when that investigation is complete, and hopefully that includes finding the person who did this, there’s three places it will go,” Stein said.
He explained that if the person who wrote the graffiti is found, the investigation reports would go to the Student Conduct Office where an internal process would be done, as well as to the Attorney General and the District Attorney. The Attorney General would review the reports and decide if the incident qualifies as a hate crime, and the District Attorney would review the reports for possible prosecution.