Connecticut College Closed Monday to Address Recent Hate Messages

Connecticut College was closed Monday while administrators led a campus-wide conversation about racism and hate-related issues on campus.

It comes a day after racially charged graffiti was found in the bathrooms of the Crozier-Williams building at the private college in New London.

Photos shared with NBC Connecticut show writing on a bathroom wall that says "No" followed by the plural form of the "N" word. The graffiti has been removed and administrators are investigating, trying to figure out who is responsible.

It's not the only recent controversy on campus. At least 500 people signed a petition calling for college president Katherine Bergeron to condemn a philosophy professor's Facebook post saying Gaza is like a pit bull kept in a cage "because of its repeated efforts to destroy Israel and Jews."

" thing has become extremely clear: the level of harm that incendiary language can have on a community. The post caused an outpouring of anger and pain among many different groups of students, faculty, and staff. The groundswell of reaction makes it clear that the issue goes far beyond the effects of a single post. It is about who we are as a community," Bergeron wrote in a letter to the students on Sunday.

She stressed that Connecticut College "values the dignity of all people" and said the campus "must take action immediately to expose and eradicate this ignorance and hatred."

"As your president, I will not tolerate forms of racist or hateful speech designed to demean, denigrate, or dehumanize," she said. "Even though speech may be protected does not mean that we have to approve of the odious things that people choose to say with their freedom. I do not approve. It does mean, though, that we can and should use our freedom to speak out against injustice."

This is not the first time students have gathered in the past few weeks to address their concerns.

"So many of you have come together in the last weeks and days — and even this afternoon and evening — to do that. It has given me a new sense of hope," Bergeron said. "I am writing to say that I stand with you. Now I ask you to work with me in making Connecticut College a place that we are proud to call our home."

Bergeron said she planned to talk to the students about strengthening the college community and improving school climate. A campus-wide meeting was slated for Monday night. Bergeron will also open her door Tuesday to anyone who wants to speak with her about the issues.

Officials said that staff members for the Offices of Student Life and the Dean of the College will be available to provide support to students who have concerns.

Deborah MacDonnell, the director of public relations at Connecticut College, called the graffiti "antithetical to the values of the College" and the incident is under investigation.

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