The Keene State community looks to rally together in unity after controversial symbols were burned and posters were found on campus. On Nov. 21, a swastika symbol was burned onto the ceiling in a Carle Hall bathroom and white supremacy posters were found around campus and in the Keene Community.
“It’s disappointing to see that someone chose to deface Keene State property in such a way,” said KSC Student Body President Laura Graham. “but I am hopeful that we as students can come together and support one another if someone feels scared.”
Keene State psychology professor Lawrence Welkowitz observed the damage to the bathroom, and said in times like these, especially “in the wake of months of hateful rhetoric,” it’s not surprising if some don’t feel safe on campus.
Among the many concerned parties on campus is Chief Officer for Diversity and Multiculturalism Dottie Morris, who described her concerns about the students’ well being. “I was concerned about how students would react,” said Morris. “I was really concerned about students and any kind of concern they have relating to the symbols that they were exposed to.”
According to Keene State Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations Kelly Ricaurte, Campus Safety is investigating the issue. KPD was reached for a comment and they said the Officer Matthew Bomberg is working the KSC Campus Safety to resolve the issue.
“The college is conducting a thorough investigation into the incident in Carle Hall,” said Ricaurte, “and will continue to do so until all avenues have been exhausted. The college will hold the responsible person accountable within the guidelines of the college’s Code of Conduct.”
Carle Hall Residence Director Megan Barbato has not replied to a request for comment.
KSC President Anne Huot sent a message to the campus community four days after the incident regarding the steps being taken to address the issue and move forward as a community. She stated, “As we go forward in these turbulent and challenging times, we must seek common ground and protect our core values of civility, inclusiveness and respect,” stated President Huot. “There is no place on our campus for acts of aggression, violence and intolerance. Importantly, the placement of that swastika was jarring and interfered with students’ ability to learn and live in a respectful space and it has absolutely no place at Keene State College.”
The Swastika was not the only concerning image found on campus Tuesday.
KSC senior Kennedy Redden shared his encounter of finding white supremacy posters at the Joyce Athletic Fields.
“There was a little shed at the athletic field,” said Redden, “and I saw the poster hanging on there and it said, ‘Are you sick of the anti-white propaganda that’s in the college?’” Redden mentioned that at first, he wasn’t aware if he should report it to campus safety or not, so he took an image and sent it to some friends who redirected it to the Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism, where it was then reported to Campus Safety.
Ricaurte mentioned that an ongoing investigation of this matter is being conducted as well.
On top of the poster being sighted on campus, another was found at the Keene Public Library.
“It shows the complexity of what we’re dealing with,” said Morris, “and what we have dealt with on campus. We have to make everything a teachable moment. Discussing what does that type of symbol mean and what it might evoke to certain people is important and why so many people are talking about it.”
Where to report incidents
Morris said part of this education process is for students to know where to go if this incident arises again. Morris mentioned that the best thing to do is to take a picture and report it.
An individual can do so by contacting Campus Safety or by filling out a silent witness form, making the claim anonymous.
After receiving the claim, Campus Safety will respond immediately and conduct an investigation.
“College campuses are sacred places where we can work on understanding and solving human problems,” said Welkowitz. “I never take it for granted how lucky I am to be here.”
“We, as a community, need to come together and really support one another,” said Morris, “and figure out ways that we can engage with each other that provides an opportunity for growth.”
“I think that it is important that students feel comfortable in their living and learning space,” said Graham, “and know if they don’t, there are people all around campus they can lean on.”
Justin Mahan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org