Williams College Community Rallies Over ThreatStaff Reports
07:54PM / Monday, November 14, 2011
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College canceled classes on Monday and held a campuswide rally after hate speech was discovered written on a dormitory hallway wall shortly after midnight Saturday.
"It was a hateful horrible thing," said President Adam Falk to the Williams community on Monday, describing the racist threat as "like being punched in the gut." "It was also criminal and I want to be clear about that."
Several meetings were held between students, faculty and administration over the weekend, and the students marched to the Williamstown Police Station demanding they investigate. According to an email to the Williams community on Sunday night from Falk's office, "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 ... ."
That prompted Monday's campuswide outdoor gathering in front of Paresky Hall at 11 a.m. and the cancelation of other activities, including athletic practice.
"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 statement.
The Selectmen expressed solidarity with the college's concerns on Monday night. Chairman Thomas Sheldon said the racist language had no place in this community but was glad to see the students empowering themselves.
A student apparently discovered the graffiti — "All N--- Must Die" — on the top floor of 50-year-old Prospect House on Driscoll Hall Drive. The four-story dorm is part of the Currier "neighborhood" of upperclassmen housing. The student immediately informed campus security, which has launched an investigation in conjunction with Williamstown Police.
Marches, forums and discussions were held throughout the day Monday around campus and Falk addressed some 1,000 students clad in ubiquitous purple from the steps of the Paresky Center.
He countered his expressions of pride in the turnout with the understanding it was a "terrible moment and a terrible thing has happened."
Falk said the threat was "an explicit attack on the African-Americans in our community," one that also called into question the safety of all.
"There nothing is more important than the safety of the people in our community," he said. It was more important than classes and sports, and that's why the entire campus was stopped "until we get this right."
"We have to have moral clarity at this moment about what we aspire to be ... no ambiguity," Falk continued. Not only was the perpetrator accountable, but the entire community had become accountable. The first step was standing in solidarity with each other and the victims of this act and aspring "to create a Williams that is free of racism, that is free of sexism, that is free of homomphobia and that is free of fear."