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Anti-gay graffiti mars Hamline University

  • By ANTHONY LONETREE and PAUL WALSH
  • April 23, 2009 - 8:53 PM

To Hamline University President Linda Hanson, the words and graphic images found spray-painted across the St. Paul campus early Wednesday were an assault on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

To make matters worse, she said, the actions came during Rainbow Week, "a week of solidarity and celebration" with GLBT people.

But to Kale Anderson, a junior living at Theta Chi fraternity house, where "U R GAY" was written on the steps outside, the vandalism was more about "childishness" than intolerance, he said.

Both agree, however, that the incident was out of place at Hamline University, which prides itself on its diversity.

The message at the university, says first-year student Rachel Anderson, is: "Be who you are and be proud of it."

Sometime early Wednesday, school spokeswoman JacQui Getty said, vandals "blazed a trail" through the grounds of the university, spray-painting images of male genitalia on buildings, landscape and sidewalks, plus a vulgar message on the back wall of the Admissions House building at Snelling and Hewitt avenues.

In that message, the author expressed a fondness for the male genitalia.

In an e-mail to the campus community, Hanson said the acts were "intended to be hurtful and to undermine our values as an inclusive and honorable community." Officials, she wrote, will "pursue every avenue to discover the perpetrators of this vandalism."

Alex Suskovic, administrative chairman for Hamline University Spectrum, a student-led GLBT group, said Thursday that he felt very safe at Hamline. And if he didn't, he added, he knew that "the administration here would back me up 110 percent."

Hate crime?

At Theta Chi, next door to the Admissions House, Kale Anderson, 20, said he didn't view the messages and images as an anti-gay attack. He noted, for example, that an eagle outside the Admissions House also had been spray-painted with a reference to Earth Day, suggesting a lack of consistency in the vandals' intent.

"It must have been drunk people -- or just people screwing around," he said. That it occurred during Rainbow Week, Anderson said, was a coincidence, in his view.

Asked for his take on the vandalism, St. Paul police spokesman Peter Panos, whose department has no part in the investigation, said "those kind of statements, written like that, are usually made by younger boys." Hate crime? "No, those are stupid statements by little kids," Panos said.

Getty said that the university, however, was of the view that the graffiti targeted the GLBT community. But until the suspect or suspects were found, she acknowledged, no one could know for sure.

"That's part of the investigation," Getty said. "Who did it and why?"

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Shirleen Hoffman, director of safety and security at 651-523-2100.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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