Residents of Ryan Hall first floor woke up Monday morning, March 23, to find extensive graffiti throughout the whole floor, covering doors, walls and bathroom mirrors.
Profane language with words such as ‘whore,’ ‘slut,’ ‘dyke,’ etc. spanned the floor written with markers, crayons and make-up, said RJ Vallie, investigating officer of Public Safety.
There was also graffiti with hockey players’ names and numbers, as well as statistics, but Vallie said that those responsible were probably just familiar with the team, and didn’t necessarily mean any team members were part of the incident.
Junior Erika Ahbel, a resident of the floor, had her door extensively written on.
“Some seemed quite targeted, other stuff which was just immature,” she said. “Everyone was targeted, but some people were targeted more than others. They say ‘sticks and stones will break my bones and words will never hurt me,’ but words do have an effect on a person. No one wants to wake up to that.”
First-year Sam Berreondo moved in to Ryan Hall the day before the incident to be the new first-floor resident assistant.
“There was just so much graffiti everywhere. I’ve never seen that much in one area,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was in shock that it happened, and I was really sad that it happened on my floor on my first night. It really irritated me.”
A floor meeting was already scheduled for that night in order for Berreondo to meet her residents, she said. Instead, the meeting was about the incident and was attended by Residence Life members Amanda Viens, resident director of Ryan Hall, and Joshua Chamberlain, associate director of Ryan and Alumni Halls.
“A lot of people couldn’t believe that it happened,” Berreondo said. “There wasn’t a lot of anger which was really good, everyone was sad and disappointed. It shows we have stuff to work on in the St. Michael’s community.”
Viens, Chamberlain and Vallie all said they can’t remember a situation as extensive as this.
In a campus wide email written on Sunday, March 29, Dean Michael Samara wrote “the sense of confidence and safety that we all need to be at our best was shaken by a few of the messages removed from those walls. Words not only express our thoughts, but can define our thinking.”
“I was very upset and discouraged that this would happen on campus. That’s very much not what St. Michael’s is about,” Chamberlain said.
Ahbel said she was disappointed with the graffiti because it was very against the St. Michael’s message.
“We are a community and if you call yourself someone who lives in this community, you need to respect everyone,” Ahbel said. “That doesn’t mean you have to like everyone, that doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone, but you have to have respect for the fact that they have every right to be here just as much as you do.”
Ahbel said she believes that those responsible for this incident were either intoxicated or it was a cry for help.
“If they’re angry, we need to get them help,” she said. “It’s not excusing what they did; we need to hold them accountable, it was inappropriate and unacceptable regardless of why it was done. But, if someone is hurting on this campus, I think it’s our job to uphold the mission statement of St. Mike’s. We are a community, we take care of each other.”
Vallie said he believes the people who are responsible were familiar with the residents of the floor, due to the very targeted and very personal nature of the comments made.
Ahbel says she hopes there can come a positive aspect from this incident.
“It’s a shame. It really should not have happened but hopefully this is a teachable moment. Hopefully there’s something that can be taken from this,” she said.
Chamberlain said he hopes that out of this situation, a positive dialogue can start within the St. Michael’s community.
Viens said she was hurt and discouraged by the incident, but hopes that there can be a silver lining.
“We’re hoping there’s a discussion and that people become aware that comments they make might be funny to some people, but are really hurtful to others,” she said. “We hope this makes people more respectful and understanding, which is what St. Mike’s is about.”
Contact RJ Vallie at (802) 654-2864 with any information.