Community condemns acts of vandalism

Messages of support replace messages of hate and division

By: Hunter Ellis and chloe salveson, managing multimedia editor and staff writer

Cardboard signs asserting “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and posters proclaiming “HATE HAS NO HOME HERE” now stand next to Bellarmine Chapel, as Xavier students and organizations send messages of encouragement and love in opposition to Saturday’s vandalisms.

Several organizations, academic programs and prominent individuals are among those who responded on Sunday to the slashing of the banner outside Bellarmine Chapel and the posting of at least 15 Patriot Front stickers on the Xavier Yard. 

Xavier President Michael Graham, S.J., offered a series of personal remarks concerning yesterday’s occurrences. 

“I am… aware that part of my privilege as a White man is not feeling deeply these acts of hate in the way they were intended: as threats and intimidations, as varieties of personal assaults,” he said. “It grieves me that students, faculty and staff of color and no doubt others as well, now wonder about their safety on campus. Just as the cowardly perpetrators intended. It grieves me deeply.”

Yesterday, Bellarmine Chapel released a statement reinforcing the message of their vandalized sign, writing, “Racism is a sin and BLACK LIVES MATTER!​“

“The vandalism of our Black Lives Matter banner (on) Xavier University’s campus serves as a painful reminder of the hateful and bigoted actions that take place every day and make people of color feel less safe in our communities,” the statement continued. “Banners can and will be replaced, but lives are being lost every day. As a community of faith, as the body of Christ, when one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers.”

Bellarmine Chapel also stated they have ordered a new sign to replace the banner.

In the meantime, students across campus took action to decry the vandalism. One of these students was Jonathan Hesford, a current Xavier graduate student, who asked his peers to create new Black Lives Matter signs in an Instagram post. 

Hesford further explained that late Saturday night he and a few friends noticed four signs staked in the ground where the now-removed banner once stood. 

“So I brought some cardboard and some markers (to make signs), and then we decided to get creative and carve ‘BLM’ into the snow right next to it,” he said. 

In his Instagram message, Hesford explained that his intention was to “make this site one of triumph and hope, resilience and courage, love and joy.” 

Sabrina Moran, junior early childhood education major, also decided to play a part in this expression of solidarity. Moran invited friends and community members to Gallagher Student Center to make cardboard signs showing support.

“The plan is to hang (the cardboard signs) when it’s not wet because it’s cardboard, and I don’t want it to disintegrate,” Moran commented. “(My intention was) to show (people of color) that all of these people who made all of these signs care, and that we’re standing for and with them.”

She identified these acts of vandalism as contrary to Xavier’s mission and Jesuit identity. 

“Xavier is just not a place for hate. You look at the Xavier community, and you look at our Jesuit values… One of our values is service rooted in justice, love and solidarity,” she said. “So obviously, we’re going to take action after what happened.”

Graham also took note of the signs outside of Bellarmine and other statements of unity.

“I have been heartened by the shows of solidarity and support I have heard of and those I’ve seen — like the ’garden’ of signs that has been constructed where the desecrated sign stood,” he said.

In addition to these grassroots efforts, Xavier University posted a short statement on its Twitter page on Sunday evening which reads:

“XUPD and campus leadership are aware of and actively investigating malicious acts from an extremist political group on campus this weekend. Any message of hate, fear and division is fundamentally at odds with our shared call to solidarity and love. Simply put, hate has no home in our community. As the sign that was destroyed last night on campus eloquently states: Racism is a sin. Black Lives Matter.” 

Photo courtesy of Xavier University via Twitter

A longer statement is expected to be released in the coming days, along with any findings of the ongoing investigation. 

Xavier’s Student Government Association (SGA) was one of the student organizations to post a response via Instagram in the past 48 hours, saying: “As a university that stands for and with others, we, as the Student Government Association, do not support the acts that occurred on campus this weekend… We stand with our students, faculty and staff of color and are committed to fostering equality, equity, diversity and inclusion.”

The statement also reiterated their opposition to Patriot Front, adding: “We stand against any displays of white supremacy and racism on and off Xavier’s campus. We believe even the slightest bit of racism and discrimination has no place at our university.” 

Another student group, the Coalition of Black Revolutionaries and Allies (COBRA), responded to the events in a series of Instagram posts which emphasized the broader issue of systemic racism at Xavier.

“While it is true that multiple other campuses near us experienced the same instances of hate, this is still reflective of a larger problem at Xavier. We have to question if the institution is actually committed to dismantling anti-Blackness and White supremacy. We have to take these deliberate and fear-inducing acts of racism seriously,” the post said.

“The most marginalized students at our university do not feel safe on our campus. Racism is a Xavier problem: Anti-Blackness is a Xavier problem: White supremacy is a Xavier problem… (Racism) exists and it is making Xavier students feel unsafe. Our university and our students need to do better,” the post continued. “Our students can no longer remain silent about this.” 

A significant number of Xavier clubs and offices at the university also took to social media and released similar messages that decry the vandalism and offer support. Among these were the Black Care Club, the Inclusion Club, Citizens of the World, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Faith and Justice and more.

Graham concluded his reflection with a challenge for the Xavier community.

“I hope that, in the coming days, we will all find ways to put into practice the best ways we can of standing against the world they would like to see by building the world rather in the way that it should be, in the way that God intended it to be,” he said. 

Today at 7 p.m., the Newswire Live will continue our coverage as we hear from students of color and firsthand accounts from students who reported the vandalism.

Any community members with relevant information about the vandalism are still encouraged to contact the XUPD non-emergency number: 513-745-2000.