U-M police continue to investigate poster vandalism at Haven Hall
The exact intentions of the person or persons who went through University of Michigan’s Haven Hall Monday night ripping down fliers and pushing tacks into a poster featuring a drawing of a black Caribbean woman and her baby are not yet known, police say.
Was it a random act of hooliganism or was it motivated by the race, ethnicity or gender of the subjects featured on some of the fliers and posters?
U-M police can’t say for sure, but continue to investigate, spokeswoman Diane Brown said.
Some faculty members in the building, including Scott Kurashige, professor and director of the Asian/Pacific Islander program in the American Studies Program, believe the destruction was motivated by prejudice.
Either way, university officials and police are taking the matter seriously.
“Even while the Department of Public Safety continues its thorough police investigation of this incident, I want to say unequivocally: This act of destruction and intolerance is not Michigan,” wrote Phil Hanlon, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, in a widely distributed email. “Michigan is the sharing of diverse viewpoints and ideas in a safe environment grounded in mutual respect.”
Police were first called to Haven Hall Tuesday after receiving reports of items being town down from bulletin boards in the building, Brown said. When an officer arrived, it appeared members of the building maintenance staff had cleaned up most of the mess. The officer saw nothing out of the ordinary at that time, Brown said. An official police report was not filed.
Then on Wednesday, another faculty member contacted U-M police with more information on the incident.
“She had much more vivid descriptions,” Brown said.
A U-M police sergeant and officer canvassed the building and interviewed more people. Police are still investigating the complaint as a possible malicious destruction of property incident, the property being “damaged pieces of paper," Brown said.
Police think the vandal or vandals started on the seventh floor and worked down to the third floor sometime between 11 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday. Though the doors are locked to those not affiliated with the university, Brown said there is a lot of traffic in the building, which is linked to several others. She said there’s no telling if those responsible are students or non-students.
Brown pointed out that four floors were affected, two of which hold offices for multicultural-type programs and two of which are political science floors. Posters pertaining to race, ethnicity or gender weren’t the only ones torn off the bulletin boards.
“A wide-variety of indiscriminate materials were pulled down,” Brown said. “There’s no way to know the motivation for this.”
Kurashige, who has an office on the third floor, believes the motivation was clear.
“I had a number of fliers and posters torn down,” he said. “It’s very clear there was some targeting.”
Kurashige said he and his colleagues on the third floor are in similar fields of various multicultural and diversity studies. Kurashige thinks the acts were committed because of the content of the posters, which portrayed images like a Caribbean woman with her baby and an African American musician.
“There was one very disturbing image,” Kurashige said, referencing the drawing of a “woman of color” from the Caribbean. “There were a bunch of tacks through the eyeballs, through the body parts of the woman and child in the image.”
Kurashige thinks the current political climate might have something to do with it.
“There’s a climate in which people (faculty, staff and students) who come from marginalized backgrounds, their presence is being questioned,” he said. “Is the university prepared to competently respond to these matters?”