Williams College Responds to Hate Speech on Campus

Williams College cancelled all classes and athletic practices Monday after a hateful slur was discovered scrawled on a hallway wall in one of the residence halls late Friday night. The college cancelled normal programming to hold special discussions about discrimination on campus.

In an open letter to the campus community, the college’s administration wrote, “We understand how this disrupts important college functions, but in the wake of a shock such as this, the campus community needs to take a pause.”

According to the letter, a student called the college’s campus security around 12:30 a.m. Saturday after finding the message “All Niggers Must Die” written on the fourth floor of Prospect Hall. As a first response to the incident, Williams College Dean Sarah Bolton gathered a group of student leaders – some 70 students altogether – along with the president and vice presidents Saturday night for a meeting to discuss the incident.

In the letter, the college’s administration wrote, “Those of us at Saturday evening’s meeting came away with a much deeper understanding of the sense of vulnerability that many members of our campus community live with each day and how it has been made worse by this hate speech.”

The college said it launched its own investigation and reported the incident to the Williamstown Police. Already the college has talked with everyone who lives in the residence hall and everyone who was in the building at the time of the incident – which they found out through looking at key card access records.

“A great deal of harm has been done by this vile act. Since there is no excuse for behavior so offensive, hateful, and harmful – anywhere, but especially at Williams – we will continue to do all that we can to hold the perpetrator(s) accountable.”

In place of classes, the college organized numerous events for the community to process the event. Monday’s events included a rally against discrimination, an address from the president followed by personal stories from students about discrimination, an open mic forum, and a “practical discussion” about how the college’s administration can better address discrimination on campus. The college reported it also provided safe spaces for students to discuss their emotions and reactions surrounding the event and the college’s response to it.

The following video is of Williams College President Adam Falk’s Monday speech regarding the incident.

 


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3 comments

  1. 0
    Jody Dobson Williams '66 says:

    Very moving and inspiring to see that crowd of young people, many proudly wearing purple, coming together in community on Chapin lawn with the November campus in the background. Adam Falk’s words were genuine and appropriate, but the best thing he did was to stop everything – a message more powerful than his words – saying that this matters, that it’s of primary importance, and that we are all called upon to address it. Made me proud.

  2. 0
    Jonathan Fine and Linda Bockenstedt says:

    Our daughter, Rebecca, is a junior at Williams away in Spain for the semester but monitoring closely what is happening at school. Linda is a professor at Yale Medical School and Director of Professional Development and Equity there. I am Director of Graduate Medical Education of the Norwalk Hospital-Yale training programs. We both deal constantly with issues surrounding diversity and tolerance in an educational environment. We both heartily applaud President Falk and the College’s decisive, immediate response to this offensive act. President Falk’s speech to the students captured what needed to be said. Though we are both Harvard and Yale alums, this kind of response is indicative of why we think the values of Williams make it the best.

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