Warren Wilson College students responded with a candlelight vigil and tree-wrapping event this week after the letters “KKK” and a smiley face were found carved in a tree outside the student dining hall, an incident administrators are treating as a hate crime.
Students spent Friday afternoon wrapping the tree outside Gladfelter Dining Hall in strips of fabric upon which students were encouraged to write “messages of love.” The fabric covered the letters carved into the tree. A campus spokesman on Friday said campus police were continuing to investigate.
Paul Perrine, the college’s dean of students, said in an email to students that such actions won’t be tolerated:
This morning a hate crime (an act of vandalism with associated bias) was reported to Public Safety. The letters “KKK” with a smiley face above them have been carved into the tree outside the main entrance of Gladfelter. This hate crime will NOT and can NOT be tolerated on our campus. Public Safety with the Landscaping Supervisor removed more bark to obscure this hateful message.
We are currently investigating this as a hate crime and are collaborating with Public Safety and their resources. This is a particularly egregious crime against our community—it shakes our whole campus. If you have any information whatsoever about this act or have seen similar markings, please contact Public Safety, Lorrie Jayne, Brian Ammons, Paul Perrine, or anyone is Student Life.
Just a year ago, we gathered around this tree for a peace vigil in response to a similar incident. Today at 12:30, Chaplain Brian Ammons will gather us once again around this tree to stand in solidarity against hate.
The lettering was discovered Monday and students first responded with a massive rally that essentially shut down normal campus life and spurred discussions of diversity and acceptance, according to students. The incident follows a recent decision announcement by college officials to reorganize the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, as well as a proposal by college administrators to cut the school’s business department. The department, with only 17 majors, is one of the most diverse on campus.
All the incidents add up to a feeling among some students that diversity is under assault at Warren Wilson College, a student who didn’t want his name used, said Friday. Students are upset about the vandalism incident, the changes to the diversity program and the proposal to cut the business department. Students are circulating the following petition regarding the business department:
PETITION TO MAINTAIN THE SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAJOR AT WARREN WILSON COLLEGE
I feel that the sustainable business major is an essential course of study at Warren Wilson College.
The major provides practical real-world education that balances the coursework offered in other departments while staying aligned with the sustainable and progressive nature of the school’s mission and student body.
The major attracts and supports both International and students of color, diversifying the population at Warren Wilson College;
I believe that it would be a detriment to the school’s students, mission, and contributions to the greater community if this major was eliminated for any period of time.
I hereby do not support the decision to close the Sustainable Business major (even temporarily) at Warren Wilson College.
Campus officials are restructuring its diversity program. Here’s part of the communication from Perrine regarding that issue:
“We intend to broaden and clarify the mission for this office, redefine the role of its director, and then conduct a national search for a new director for this reshaped department.
“The president will be appointing a task force to make recommendations regarding the scope and expectations for the new director’s position. Once this restructuring is complete, a national search will be conducted to fill the position.”
More as I get it.