Women’s Studies Program Vandalized

In the summer, most campus buildings not hosting classrooms are locked. You need a key card or keys to get in and out of them and to get in and out of hallways or between floors that also have locked doors or locked elevators. What this means is that someone without a set of keys has to be particularly intent on getting into a WS hall in the summer.


I wrote about a previous incident with one of these persons here on the blog a while back. In that case, it was a person who waited until he saw lone female faculty in the WS hall and then began accosting them with anti-feminist diatribes. He needed an audience and a seeming victim. And he did not stop until one woman not only gave a description to campus police and but involved the WS Exec Board in crafting an internal bulletin to our students and faculty. Once his behavior went semi public and people were on the alert, two things became clear:

  1. he had been lurking in the WS hall for several weeks, targeting people after summer admin hours and on weekends (when the building is locked tight and deserted)
  2. he had been escalating

When everybody was aware of his m.o. and his description, he stopped coming around. What had grown into an increasingly dangerous situation through silence was turned into a mostly safe (mostly b/c he wasn’t caught) situation through speaking out and concentrated action.

Now a colleague of mine has mentioned a vandalism incident in WS at different Uni (name not provided by request). Again, using summer time to mask their identity, one or more people broke into the WS hall and vandalized every single piece of paper/poster/flier in the hallway with homophobic, anti-woman, and anti-feminist messages.  Among the particularly jarring slogans were “kill all lesbians” and “feminist should die.”

No one saw these people come into or leave the building. Luckily, no one was present when these people came through given the violence of their rhetoric. And yet, like the lone man trying to terrorize female faculty in the first example, these people got into a locked building, up several locked floors, and into a locked hall. And while it is easy enough to catch a door unlocked by someone else as it is closing, getting through the rest of the doors requires some planning. Even getting through that initial door requires a person willing to wait around for the right moment, ie a conscious effort.

One the one hand, we could say both these incidents are as simple as ensuring that faculty do not leave hall doors or elevators unlocked after hours, as this would likely cut down on the problem. On the other, placing the onus back on faculty or janitorial staff, and some belongs there, shifts the focus off of people intent on causing harm to women on campus.

In both cases, female faculty were encouraged to “take some time” rather than inform their colleagues and/or students about the incidents. Both universities could have taken these incidents as opportunities to appear strong on diversity issues and on top of incidents that most of us recognize as part of living in unequal worlds. Such action would have made people feel safer because they knew the university was quick to action and to condemn oppression. Instead, both unis chose to protect “their reputations” by fearing discussing these incidents might make their campuses seem unsafe. The latter position of course assumes that people do not talk and therefore no one will ever learn that the incidents happened, and don’t we all know that is just impossible especially in a twitter obsessed world? More importantly, placing uni rep over an internal bolo on the incident, allowed a man to go from non-verbally intimidating women in our hall, by closing in on their personal space and glaring, to verbal assaults, to menacing bordering on physical attack at the first uni.

So what do you all think? Can silence protect you?


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