Suspect identified in university racism incident

A racist threat was found this week in Henson Hall.

The Salisbury University Police Department, working with the FBI, has identified a suspect in the racist and threatening vandalism recently discovered on campus.

The matter has been referred to the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office for appropriate charges and prosecution.

The suspect is not believed to have an immediate connection to the campus.

“The racist threats scrawled on walls and doors in our academic buildings caused a great deal of fear among members of our community,” said SU President Charles Wight. “We hope that this significant development in the investigation helps to reassure the SU community and will rebuild our collective sense of security.”

The university closed for a “day of healing” on Thursday, Feb. 20, and police stepped up their presence at the school after a third incident of racist and threatening graffiti was found on campus the day before.

The university has been working with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies since last semester when other racist messages were discovered, Wight said in a letter to students, faculty and staff.

Wight asked everyone to cooperate with the investigation if they were approached by police officers of FBI agents.

The most recent incident of racist graffiti – which declared it was “Hang a N— Month” — was found Feb. 19 in Henson Science Hall. Last fall, SU Police began an investigation into similar messages scrawled on the walls of two stairwells in Fulton Hall, Wight said.

“Tonight, our campus is under attack by a coward,” Wight said. “Not one but multiple racist threats are being directed at Black and Brown members of OUR community. An attack on some members of our campus community is an attack on all of us, and we all need to respond.”

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day echoed Wight’s sentiments, and called the graffiti an act of domestic terrorism.

“Racists: You have no home here in our community. Get out. Hate: You have no home here. Get out. Misogyny, bigotry… Get out,” Day said in a video message posted on Facebook.

“When you’re on the correct side of humanity, you don’t need to slink around in stairwells, too afraid of being accountable for opinions that you can’t own publicly,” Day said.

Wight said he decided to cancel classes the next day “to give us all the opportunity to come together to process what we are experiencing, support each other and figure out how we can move forward together as a community.”

The university’s support services offices, including the Counseling Center, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Multicultural Student Services Office remained available throughout the day. The campus also had an increased police presence.

Classes and activities resumed Friday, Feb. 21. The Center for Equity, Justice and Inclusion hosted students, faculty and staff throughout the day.

In the wake of the vandalism last semester, the university announced a number of new diversity initiatives. Many of those priorities, including a national search for a chief diversity officer; campus climate survey to allow students, faculty and staff to share their experiences at SU and make suggestions for improvement; and quarterly town hall meetings with university administrators, have been realized this semester.

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.