December incident resulted in a conduct hearing
Roberta Marquette-Strain/Senior Staff Writer
A Western student responsible for vandalizing two stairwells in Colorado Hall has gone through a University conduct hearing after coming forward. Due to privacy rights, the student has been kept anonymous and the result of the hearing is unknown. However, Dean of Students Gary Pierson said that at Western, there is zero tolerance for this type of behavior.
The graffiti was found the morning of Sunday, Dec. 11 by two Colorado Hall Resident Assistants (RA), who notified two Resident Directors (RD) immediately. In an email to the student body sent out Dec. 16, Pierson wrote that the graffiti contained “inappropriate language, hate speech, profanity, and racist comments.”
Escalante Terrace RD Jonathan Stubblefield said that the RAs immediately covered up the comments with paper. Due to the nature of the incident, the Gunnison Police Department was contacted and assisted the Residence Life staff in an investigation. According to Stubblefield, the investigation consisted of asking residents if they had seen anyone hanging around the stairwells prior to the incident, which gave them a few key people. The student responsible admitted to it that Monday and the hearing was later that week.
Pierson explained to the Top, “I think we dealt with it very efficiently and professionally. There was an immediacy to our response.”
After discovering the incident, Stubblefield sent out an email to the residents of Escalante Terrace explaining what had happened and offered support to anyone who might need it, pointing them in the direction of the residence staff and the counseling center, as well hosting an optional meeting for the residents the next evening.
Stubblefield said he had never seen anything like what was written. “I’ve heard about similar incidents on other campuses but it’s definitely hard to see it on your campus, let alone the building you manage.” Despite the intent of the comments, the Colorado residents responded positively and wrote messages of acceptance and inclusion on top of the paper.
One Colorado resident, Shawn Ashmore, said that he was saddened by the hateful language that was written and that it was written at all. “The more we’ve advanced as a culture, the more covert things like racism have become, so it was hard to see it so overtly out there.”
Daizie Tuomala, a freshman who resides in Dolores Hall, had a similar reaction and was “shocked” and “confused.” She said, “I never pegged Western to have something like this happen.”
Pam Gonzales, an RD for Ute and Robidoux, was on call when the graffiti was found. Gonzales also serves on a Social Justice and Diversity committee for the Association of Intermountain Housing Officers, a regional student affairs organization. She said that two days prior to the incident, she was on a conference call with other committee members who discussed the recent increase of acts of discrimination that they had seen on their campuses following the recent presidential election. Gonzales believes that Western has been able to avoid these types of incidents because, “we are a smaller institution and we try to focus on individualized attention and make sure that students feel that they matter.”
The student’s motive is not known. However, Stubblefield has noticed that the incident sparked a discussion on the topics of racism, hate speech, and prejudice, and is planning to create a program for his building to begin tackling these issues.
The Student Government Association is also planning to address these issues campus wide through the “Moving Mountains” initiative. “It’s supposed to empower students as well as educate them on behavior and language, and to make sure people know that this is a diverse and open community,” Pierson explained. The initiative is planned to have a “kick-off” event and inclusion walk February 22.