March 6, 2008

NEWS: Handwritten Hate

Graffiti Threat Causes Commotion
Increase in campus graffiti culminates with threat against a student

by Miguel. M. Morales

Graffiti threatening a student caused Johnson County Community College officials to repeatedly search the campus library Feb. 29.

Library sources said the college's Public Safety Officers initiated a search of the Billington Library at 7:30 am. Later Overland Park Police also joined the search. The college did not immediately disclose the reason for the searches that lasted through the day.

For at least one of the patrols Terry Calaway, JCCC president, and Dennis Day, vice president of Student Services, joined the search. The source said the president, vice president and officers combed the library as though they knew who they were trying to locate.

The college has not commented on why the searches took place. However, library sources said graffiti
that threatened a student appeared in the women's third floor restroom and served as the reason for the searches.

Graffiti Problems

In November 2005, racist and anti-gay graffiti covered the walls and stalls of a restroom in the Science building. According to a Department of Public Safety report, it was the second time in two weeks graffiti appeared in that restroom. A month later, similar hate graffiti appeared in the second floor men's room in the Carlsen Center.

In an interview with The Campus Ledger following 2005 incidents, Larry Dixon, manager of Public Safety said the college informs police when graffiti makes specific threats.

"We just would ask the help of students and faculty and staff who might be suspicious of somebody in there doing it to call us because we definitely want to put a stop to it,” he said.

However in the same article Jerry Baird, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, said graffiti at the college was not a problem.

“To think there’s just been a real outbreak of this stuff is probably not accurate,” Baird said. “In comparison to most institutions, frankly, we have very little. We’re very fortunate in that respect."

In fall 2007, the college's Diversity Committee asked about a crime alert sent to the campus via Infolist concerning graffiti. Wayne Brown, chief information officer, said the crime alert concerned 17 instances of graffiti that occurred during March 29, 2007 and June 22, 2007. He said that in three of those instances graffiti targeted African Americans.

The Ledger also reported four instances of graffiti between Oct. 5 and Oct. 29. One of those instances included smeared feces on a restroom wall on the first floor of the Carlsen Center.

Unfortunately the college's annual crime report does not list graffiti as a category. However, it does list hate crimes.

College procedures call for all graffiti to be reported to campus security. They will notify housekeeping services to remove the graffiti after officers have taken photos and gathered information for a report.

Morales works at the Information Desk in the Billington Library but did not serve as the source in the story. Special thanks to Joshua Seiden's article that appeared in The Ledger Dec . 7, 2005.