The Torch

Poster Vandalized in St. John Hall

Word 'Black' visibly scuffed, Public Safety investigation underway

Nia Douglas, Staff Writer

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TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO
A poster in St. John Hall was vandalized for the second time in three weeks, Public Safety is investigating the situation.

Public Safety is investigating two instances of apparent racially motivated vandalism of a poster in St.John Hall, according to a university spokesman.

Last week, a graduate student sent the Torch photos of the damage done to the word ‘black’ in a series of Research Month posters on display on the building’s first floor.

The student, Michael Gaughran, said he noticed that the word “black” had been scuffed up on the poster last month, then saw the poster had been replaced with a clean one a week later.

Then, when he walked by the poster two weeks later, he saw the same word scuffed up again on the replacement poster.

The second scuffed up poster was still on display as recently as Monday.

Brian Browne, Executive Director for University Relations, said both incidents of the vandalism had already been reported “by staff from nearby offices” and added that it remains “an active investigation.”

This incident comes at the end of a tumultuous school year in the realm of race relations on campus.

After students walked out of President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw’s Town Hall meeting in February at what appeared to be the climax of weeks of on-campus protesting, Gempesaw assured students in an April Torch interview that he understood their concerns “as an immigrant and a person of color.”

Gaughran first noticed the scuffed up poster on his way to his Tuesday evening class on March 27.

“I noticed a dent,” Gaughran said, referring to the collection of Research month posters displayed on the first floor. “As I got up closer, I saw that it looked like an X or something, and it was right through the cover of Kwame Turre’s Black Power.”

The set of Research Month posters features a number of St. John’s students and alumni who presented their findings and studies at the annual St. John’s Research Month activities held throughout April, and one of the posters features a photo of St. John’s Alumnus Xavier Buck buck holding a copy of a book entitled Black Power.

“There was specifically a line right through the word ‘black,’” Gaughran said. “I was surprised, so I took a few pictures of it. It didn’t have any lead or ink mark; it was like someone took a razor blade to it.”

He added, “I was going to report it to someone. I just sort of didn’t get around to it and it seemed like a random thing.”

A week later, Gaughran returned and found that the poster of Buck was replaced.

“There was a whole new poster put up,” Gaughran said. “Obviously someone had noticed it and fixed it.”

The following week, however, Graughran found himself staring yet again at a vandalized picture of Xavier Buck holding Black Power with a distinct line carved through the word black.

“Someone specifically did the exact same marking on the exact same word,” he said. “None of the other [posters] were touched. Someone was clearly targeting this.”

Graughran then reached out to the Torch saying that he was “disturbed.” However, he wasn’t the only one on campus who noticed this act of vandalism.

Students of Consciousness drew attention to this act on their Instagram page on Tuesday by posting a picture of the vandalized poster with the caption: “The racism that St. John’s University allows will no longer be tolerated! #NoJusticeNoPeace.”

Amber Reese, president of Spectrum, the LGBTQ+ community organization on campus and an avid supporter of the protest movements on campus, said she was “not surprised at all.” She added that Gempesaw is “soft on these issues that have been persisting since before he even got here.”

“I see the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion getting a ton of things done so it looks like things are getting better,” Reese said.  “But as you can tell from this incident, the campus climate hasn’t necessarily healed.”

Browne, the University spokesman, said Public Safety’s investigation is open.

“If students have any information that will help this ongoing investigation,” he said, “they are encouraged to contact the Department of Public Safety.”

 

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Poster Vandalized in St. John Hall