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Why we’re reporting on offensive graffiti

Welcome to Dalhousie - an institution of higher learning (photo by Chris Parent)
Welcome to Dalhousie – an institution of higher learning (photo by Chris Parent)

Dalhousie president Richard Florizone likely didn’t have a clue the Gazette was taking an extensive look at the offensive graffiti cluttering the Killam Library when he sent a tweet complimenting an innocent scribbling somewhere in the Henry Hicks Building.

But the irony is worth a chuckle.

The social media savvy president made his Twitter debut last weekend. One of his first tweets was a photo of someone’s correction of sloppy Latin grammar, an homage to a memorable Monty Python’s Life of Brian scene where a character was chastised for the offence.

Florizone’s tweet read, “At Dal, even the graffiti is academically rigorous.”

The president is right. Some of the graffiti on campus is evidence of the smart people who inhabit this establishment of higher learning. A lot of it is quite harmless.  Proclamations of young love, jokes about late nights studying and complaints of approaching deadlines.

All graffiti is bad in principle and hard to outlaw in practice, but the offensive scribblings should make us stop and think.

Our assistant news editor, Jesse Ward, is the author behind this week’s bang-up cover story. He spent several weeks looking into the discriminatory graffiti found in the Killam, predominantly in what’s known as the ‘stacks’ on the third and fourth floors.

He came back from his initial examination with a nine-page document of images that made my jaw drop more than once.

This “academically rigorous” institution, to borrow Florizone’s words, is also home to the lowest of human decency, it seems. Virtually no ethnic group, religious belief or sexual orientation was left unscathed. People’s physical appearances are mocked, and there are even nasty comments perpetuating the rape culture we have all been trying to eradicate.

This vile graffiti exists, and it’s disgusting.

But we all know this. Yet the graffiti in question remains. Some of it has sat there, untouched, for years. In a university comprised of progressive, activist types, the silence from the thousands that frequent this space is especially surprising.

We have become acclimatized to these offences. We walk the halls, even sit in the stacks, but we don’t stop and think about what we’ve passed by so many times.

In our pages this week, we ask that you consider these comments. You may have pictured it as a joke the first time you saw it, but it isn’t. It’s obscene.

We have decided to reprint some of these offending remarks in our newspaper. Is it for shock value? A little. But we hope you will come away disturbed when reading this story, and seeing these images. Hate speech is never OK. Not when it’s said in person, and not when it’s written on a wall.

One of the worst graffiti I saw, only a week or so ago, featured a man—defaced to look like Hitler—in the Killam third floor men’s washroom. “Wash yo’ hands!” the scratch read, with “of the Jews” added below it.

By Monday, the swastikas had been blurred out. Someone had taken a marker to conceal the offending symbols.

It’s a start.

Read the original report:

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Ian Froese
Ian Froese
Ian was the Gazette's Editor-in-chief for Volume 146. He was the Sports Editor for Volumes 145 and 144.

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