11:50 a.m. update: This morning, a University official told local television news outlets that the rope has been identified as a piece of climbing equipment, not a noose. The official also confirmed that the graffiti was not a recent act.
After discovering “a loose hanging rope with a knotted loop at one end” in a utility room in the sub-basement of Healy Hall this week, University employees filed a report with the Department of Public Safety, according to an email written by Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson.
The room, which is locked and off-limits, can also be accessed through utility tunnels that run underneath campus. During the ensuing DPS investigation, officers also discovered “racist graffiti and vandalism” in the tunnels, which suggests “illegal trespassing that has occurred over an extended period of time.”
The University has contacted the Metropolitan Police Department to assist in the ongoing investigation. While no suspect has been identified, DelMonaco and Olson encouraged anyone with information about the incidents to alert the University through DPS or the Bias Reporting System.
“We must underscore that acts of vandalism, hate and intolerance have no place in our campus community,” they wrote. “Together all of these incidents are disturbing and not to be accessed except by trained and authorized personnel.”
Tonight at 9 p.m., representatives from Student Affairs, DPS, and Campus Ministry plan to hold a community meeting in the Village C Alumni Lounge to discuss the incidents.
After the jump, we’ve republished DelMonaco and Olson’s full email.
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
We write today to share very troubling news and ask for your assistance as we seek to understand some recent events.
Earlier this week the Department of Public Safety (DPS) received a report from university employees about a loose hanging rope with a knotted loop at one end, described as a possible noose, in a locked utility area in the sub-basement of Healy Hall. This remote area is off limits except for authorized personnel but can be accessed through underground utility tunnels in addition to the locked entrance. The possibility of this kind of symbol on our campus is deeply troubling and extremely serious. We must underscore that acts of vandalism, hate and intolerance have no place in our campus community. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we are committed to fostering a community that is welcoming to people of all races, religions, and ethnicities and that values understanding, inclusion and respect.
We began a thorough investigation as soon as the incident was reported on Tuesday and have now ruled out legitimate uses for a rope in this area by our personnel. We have contacted the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to assist in our ongoing investigative efforts. In conducting our investigation we’ve uncovered some other troubling information we need to make the community aware of and seek cooperation to address. We have found racist graffiti and vandalism in underground areas adjacent to the Healy sub-basement that provide evidence of illegal trespassing that has occurred over an extended period of time. These remote areas are dangerous and not to be accessed except by trained and authorized personnel. Together all of these incidents are disturbing and undermine the values of our community. We have increased DPS patrols on campus and are continuing our investigation.
Knowing that many people will find this news of great concern, representatives from Student Affairs, DPS and Campus Ministry will be available at a meeting for the campus community this evening at 9 p.m. in the Village C Alumni Lounge. Please know that you may also contact CAPS at (202) 687-HELP or a chaplain at (202) 668-3195 at any time. Chaplains in residence and residence life staff are available to meet with students as well. Faculty and staff may find resources through the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action or the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.
We encourage anyone who may have information related to these incidents to contact the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (202) 687-4343. While we do not know the motivation of the person or persons who committed these acts, nor whether or not they are members of the University community, they are of great concern.
If a member of the campus community is found to be responsible for these acts, the matter will be treated very seriously, including as a violation of university policies. We ask that everyone remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity or signs of vandalism to DPS at 202-687-4343 or through the anonymous tip form. We also encourage anyone to report information about these recent acts of vandalism to the Bias Reporting System. We also ask that everyone do his or her part to act responsibly, safely, and respectfully.
Todd A. Olson, Vice President for Student Affairs
Rocco DelMonaco, Vice President for University Safety