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January 22. 2013 8:41PM

Dartmouth reacts to racist word in dorm

HANOVER - An incidence of racist graffiti found on Dartmouth College campus over the weekend has sparked a series of community forums to allow students to express their concerns and offers possible solutions.

"There was racist graffiti that was found on a white board in one of the dormitories on campus," said Justin Anderson, director of media relations for Dartmouth College. "It was discovered early on Saturday morning, 2 a.m., or there abouts."

A student had returned to his dorm room and found it on the white board in the hallway outside of his room. The "n-word" written on the board is believed to have been aimed at a student living in a neighboring dorm room, Anderson said.

The student that found it immediately contacted campus Safety and Security, which photographed the graffiti then erased it.

Students in the dorm were interviewed as part of an investigation to determine who is responsible, Anderson said.

"We are interested in finding out who is responsible, but we understand that may be pretty difficult. Short of that and in light of that we want to take this opportunity to educate," he said.

Dartmouth's Office of Pluralism and Leadership's Bias Incident Response Team has been activated to provide resources for the students most directly affected by the incident.

Monday night the Bias Incident Response Team held a community meeting and invited students to talk about the campus climate, frustrations and how to improve the campus climate moving forward.

"It was upsetting to students. It was upsetting to African-American students. It was upsetting to white students. It was an unfortunate occurrence that upsets everybody and I think everybody that hears about it is upset by it," Anderson said. "When something like this happens it really strikes at the heart of this close, caring community."

The school also held its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day candlelight vigil Monday night.

Dartmouth traditionally marks King's holiday with weeks of programing leading up to its observance.

"We look at the holiday, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day, to commemorate what King meant to his community, his country, and it's a reminder that there is much work to be done. As much that has been achieved since his death much works remains to be done and this incident is a reminder of that," Anderson said.

There is an effort now at Dartmouth to turn the negative incident into an educational opportunity, Anderson said. Dartmouth is committed to being inclusive, but like other college campuses across the country, Dartmouth is not immune to racism.

"We at Dartmouth realize that from time to time this type of ignorant speech will happen. . No matter how ignorant they are we have to look at them for opportunities for teaching. . When it happens in our community we want to take action and use the incident to better the campus climate."

A community forum is planned to discuss the issue again this Friday. Anderson said it will be one of a series of community forums to not just address racism on campus but also other issues such as homophobia.

"This kind of language, whether it is written as graffiti or actually spoken, represents the kind of hurtful sentiments that are counter to the principles of community that an institution of higher education like Dartmouth is really trying to cultivate," Anderson said. "Part of the Dartmouth experience happens out of the classroom so when something like this happens it impacts the kind of quality of the education for the students here at Dartmouth and we just don't think that it's acceptable."

mpierce@newstote.com


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