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Healing After Vandalism

By Holly Shanahan ’18

Staff Writer


The Rev. Ray Dlugos is calling on students to stand up against hate and to reinforce the integrity of the school following an incident where hateful, racist and disrespectful words were written in the hallway of an O’Brien suite.

“What bothers me the most is that we have gotten numb in our culture, where we have become so tolerant about it, and we don’t get outraged,” said Dlugos, who is also the vice president for Mission and Student Affairs. “We feel helpless, or worse we feel like it doesn’t matter, or that it’s funny. It’s not funny. It’s very ugly. These types of things lead to the Holocaust and it becomes who we are by not standing up against it. That is what really bothers me.”

The graffiti occurred during an Oct. 15 party in O’Brien. What started as a wall of Twitter and Instagram usernames turned into wall of obscenity towards almost every racial and ethnic group, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.

“People do bad things when nobody stops them. It is very serious and very sad. It is a really good example of how something seemingly harmless can get out of control really fast if people are not careful,” said Dlugos.

After being notified of the incident by Dean of Students Allison Gill and vice president of Administration & Campus Services Marc Collins, Dlugos saw the graffiti.

“I took the rest of the day, after seeing the room and talking to the student who lives in the room,” Dlugos said. “I thought we needed to say something very clear to the residents. It is a hard message and it says a lot about us. It says a lot about those who wrote on the wall and what is coming out of them, but also those who did nothing and stood by.“

Residents in O’Brien were notified in a mandatory building meeting with Dlugos on the Tuesday after the incident. The meeting briefly described what had happened the weekend before and asked those who were involved to come forward. Dlugos explained that this type of vandalism required many people over a span of time.

“This event upset many and can be used as a push to reform our school’s tolerance of hate crimes,” Dlugos said. He encourages students to realize the seriousness of what happened and not let it become what Merrimack is known for.

“The ideas should come from the O’Brien community, for them to work together and be creative. I would love to be involved when they do,” Dlugos said. “There are lots of terrific student leaders doing great things, and I know that the community has the potential to rise up and do something really great to not allow this hate in their house.”

According to spokesman Jim Chiavelli, there is no current information about the disciplinary actions being taken on those responsible due to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which protects student disciplinary records.