USF Police investigate racist, threatening graffiti

Some students believe the case should be investigated as a hate crime

usf

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)  – University of South Florida administrators and police tell students they are safe, following a number of incidents, in which racial slurs were written on dorm walls. There was also a recent threat to kill Hillary Clinton if she had been elected president, officials say.

The person behind the graffiti used a dry erase marker so there was no physical damage to buildings. Police are investigating, but because of the lack of physical damage, they say there isn’t much they can do.

Renna Reddick is a spokeswoman for the University of South Florida Police Department. “There was some graffiti on the wall; that information was able to be erased,” Reddick said. “There was no permanent damage, so in our eyes and through the statute, there is no crime there.”

But students are concerned. Tyrah Walker is friends with one of the students who believes she was targeted.

“It just makes me really afraid because I feel that we should be so above racism and nasty remarks, and the fact that this is still going on and close to where I stay, it’s just frightening for me,” Walker said.

Mackenzie Cherry also lives in the hall where some of the graffiti was discovered. The university asked us not to divulge which hall because officials said it could compromise the investigation.

Cherry is equally concerned. “This is supposed to be like our home, and you don’t want this type of thing going on in a place that’s supposed to be your home,” she said.

University President Judy Genshaft sent out an e-mail to students on Thursday. She didn’t specifically address the incidents but urged students to get along after a particularly lively presidential election. The e-mail reads:

Dear University of South Florida System Community:

I know each of us shares in the relief that the nation’s longest and most controversial campaign season is over, and it is my sincere hope that healing can now take place and we can move forward once again as a unified country.

Whether or not you agreed with the outcome, the University of South Florida System remains a special place where respectful expression of one’s beliefs is encouraged. Public universities, and particularly USF, play an integral role in moving our nation forward as a united – yet diverse – community.

University of South Florida was founded with the values of honoring and respecting each other’s diversity, ideas and beliefs. We serve as a model where all can share our perspectives in a civil, safe and positive manner. It is from enlightened and free exchange of ideas that the next experiment, discovery, and societal advance springs forth.

I am proud of USF’s commitment to improving the lives of others, wherever and whenever we can. Let us continue to celebrate the ideals and values that have made the University of South Florida the special place it is today and will continue to be for many more tomorrows.

Thank you.

Judy Genshaft
President, University of South Florida System

Meanwhile, USF Police have beefed up patrols around the affected areas.

Ana Hernandez, USF’s vice president of housing and residential education, organized a meeting with students on Wednesday, the day after the election. The purpose was to address student concerns and assure them the school is taking the matter seriously.

“We create a safe and welcoming community, and anything that counteracts that is troubling to us,” Hernandez said. “So, what we want to do is care for our students. We want to support them and we also want to send the message that type of behavior is not acceptable to us.”

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