Recent events have put a deeper dent in the already jeopardized level of safety on campus. The MultiCultural Center (MCC) is facing a particular threat after two events of vandalism against the building this year, once in October and again earlier in November.
The MCC is a student led organization and these incidents have left many of them afraid to be within this space they call their home.
“That safety was violated,” Deema Hindawi, a coordinator for Social Justice Summit and second year criminology and CRGS major, said. “This home was violated. We’re open to everyone, MCC is just our name.”
The weekend before Halloween, students arrived to their campus home to find posters torn to pieces and left on the walkway entrance of the MCC. The “Justice for Josiah” posters, the “My Culture is Not a Costume” campaign poster, and a welcome poster were torn to pieces and left on the walkway entrance of the building. These posters were replaced with a sign that said “It’s okay to be white” on their door.
“This was an attack on the home that should be a safe space for everyone,” Hindawi said. “At a place where we try to create a sense of community for students and make them feel welcome, letting them know they belong here, there was this act of hate and it is difficult to take in.”
On the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 1, MCC staff walked up to the building to find “Justice for Josiah” posters ripped once again in the same way they had been the Saturday prior.
Interim coordinator for the MCC Carlos Sanchez called a staff meeting that day for students to share their feelings about the incident.
“We should not allow this to impact or distract our academic efforts in making the MCC an inclusive space,” Sanchez said. “We can’t let it drain us.”
“This could mean that someone is watching the house and that scares me,” Celyna Ramos, queer community coordinator at the MCC and fourth year international studies major, said.
According to HSU’s crime reports, there were three hate crimes reported in 2015 and two in 2016. All crimes were bias-related vandalism found in campus residence halls. In the two-year span, three were racially based and two were based on sexual orientation.
Angelica Munoz, outreach and social media marketing at the MCC and third year social work major, agrees that students are allowed to express their opinions openly but still has many questions regarding the incentive a person had to express themselves in this way.
“This is not a way to get attention,” Munoz said. “There are other ways to express how you’re feeling even if it is hate.”
Not only is this type of incident not new to HSU, it isn’t new to other universities either.
“Those posters showed up on Santa Rosa Junior College and other universities within the state of California,” HSU Police Chief Donn Peterson said. “When we saw them here on campus we removed them and we did document them.”
Similarly formatted signs reading “It’s okay to be white” have appeared across college campuses nationwide. According to the Washington Post, the poster campaign originated on the online message board 4chan and is intended to eventually have more people adopt white nationalist views while discrediting news outlets.
The message board includes a directed “game plan” explaining that the posters should be displayed on Halloween night while wearing costumes so identities are disclosed.
What can be done after an incident such as this occurs is limited as the expression of opinions, and ideas even ones that are hateful, do not constitute a crime.
“To do anything that would exclude people or make students feel unwelcome or unsafe is disgusting and it pisses me off but people do have a right to free speech,” Peterson said. “Still, these things shouldn’t be happening to our students”
Reporting future incidents
HSU Police Chief Donn Peterson stresses the importance of students reporting bias related issues, no matter how big or small.
“The ‘It’s okay to be white’ posters…will be reported by us as a hate crime but it probably won’t get picked up by the Department of Education as a hate crime,” Peterson said.
Chief Peterson says the Department of Education will most likely categorize this incident as bias related. These incidents will not likely show up in the Annual Safety Report but HSU does learn from these incidents.
“We always want people to report things on or off campus,” Peterson said. “I would always encourage people to report, for example, someone yelling or writing an offensive phrase. We can’t prosecute that in terms of arrest but at least there’s a record of it…. It shouldn’t be allowed to exist, it shouldn’t be underground.”
Chief Peterson emphasized that messaging or displays targeting or marginalizing any individuals or groups will not be tolerated.