November 15, 2004
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,
This past Friday night artwork in a display at the Blanchard gallery entitled "Womyn of Color" was vandalized. Then late Saturday night the student artist, whose phone number had been posted in connection with the sale of her work, received phone calls that contained repeated racial and sexual epithets. Public Safety has identified two of three white males who are suspects in the vandalism and is aggressively pursuing an investigation of both the vandalism and the phone calls. Two apparently unrelated bias incidents are also being probed. I write both to inform you of the incidents and to let you know what the College is doing about them.
The vandalism appears likely to have been directed specifically at the artist's bold images of women of color, in which case it, like the harassing phone calls, is not only a crime, but a crime of racial bias. As you know, the College has focused its considerable institutional energies this year, supported by the work of the Presidential Commission on Diverse Community, toward eliminating racism on this campus and ameliorating its impact from the larger social framework in which it persists. Crimes of racial bias affect every one of us and our work together: I know we stand united in deploring and fighting them.
Public Safety is actively investigating both incidents with the assumption that they are linked. If likely suspects are identified, the College will work with prosecutors to take legal action to the fullest extent possible. In particular, we will be collaborating with the district attorney's office with the goal of categorizing these offenses as hate crimes, a designation that reflects their seriousness and carries appropriately severe penalties.
These incidents bring a renewed urgency to the work against racism that we have undertaken as a community and underscore the importance of standing together in opposition. This work requires the efforts of each of us in rooting out the foundations of racism, in working against the conditions that make possible its touching our lives at Mount Holyoke, and in supporting members of our community who are most directly the victims of racial bias. Please join me in these efforts.
Joanne V. Creighton, President