Connecticut College cancels classes over racist graffiti

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2015 11:24 AM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The president of Connecticut College canceled classes Monday following the discovery over the weekend of racist graffiti, scheduling a series of events in their place to promote discussion and "eradicate this ignorance and hatred."

The private liberal arts school, which was roiled earlier this month by language a professor used to describe Gaza Strip, scheduled a day of campus-wide events including an open discussion with administrators and a faculty-led talk on diversity.

The graffiti, including a racial slur, was found shortly after noon Sunday in bathroom stalls inside a student center at the college of 1,900 students in New London. In a campus-wide message a few hours later, the college dean and director of campus safety asked for help identifying those responsible, citing "the egregious nature of the graffiti."

After meeting with students, college President Katherine Bergeron issued a letter to campus Sunday night, saying classes would be canceled to ensure the dialogue on racism and inclusion received appropriate attention.

"We must take action immediately to expose and eradicate this ignorance and hatred," Bergeron wrote.

The episode follows a controversy over a professor's Facebook post that compared Gaza Strip to a "rabid pit bull."

Last week, Bergeron ordered a review of the school's social media policies and an update of how bias incidents are handled after students protested the post by Andrew Pessin, a philosophy professor, who wrote months earlier that Gaza was in a cage "because of its repeated efforts to destroy Israel and Jews." He apologized and said he referred to the Hamas rulers and not Palestinians. Bergeron did not denounce the post, refusing requests from many on campus to do so, and said Pessin and his critics have a right to free speech.

Bergeron said in her letter Sunday that she will not tolerate racist or hateful speech.

"Even though speech may be protected does not mean that we have to approve of the odious things that people choose to say with their freedom," she said.

Also over the weekend, Northeastern University in Boston said a Nazi symbol was found on a dry-erase board in its International Village dorm. Campus police were investigating and President Joseph Aoun called it a hateful act of anti-Semitism.