Saturday night, the Sigma Phi Epsilon lodge on University of Richmond’s campus was vandalized with slurs most often used to insult a member of the gay community.
The person or people responsible have yet to be identified. The crime is being investigated by the university police department, and may potentially be classified as a hate crime. The university bias resource team defines a hate crime on the Common Ground website as “any criminal offense or attempted criminal offense that one could reasonably conclude is motivated, in whole or in part, by the alleged offender’s bias against an individual’s actual or perceived age, ancestry or ethnicity, color, creed, disability, gender, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, race, religion, religious practice or sexual orientation.”
George Beck, president of Kappa Alpha, said he was informed of the situation Sunday through an email from the interfraternity council president, Clark Hillenbrand.
“[The email] basically told us that at some point Saturday night,” Beck said, “someone had gone with spray paint cans and painted in massive letters on the Sig Ep lodge, ‘fag’ on the front and ‘gay’ on the back.”
The fraternity presidents, Beck said, were told the situation was being taken extremely seriously because of the nature of the words used, and that consequences would be severe for whoever was responsible. Beck said that right now he, and most likely all of the other chapter presidents, was reaching out to make sure this wasn’t done by someone in his chapter, and if it was, that they come forward sooner rather than later.
“Whenever something serious like this happens, especially something that’s classified as a hate crime,” Beck said, “there’s always the possibility that either the school or the national organization of that chapter could remove their charter and remove them from campus.”
Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground and member of the university bias resource team, said that whether this was a hate crime or not he would be responding to the event because of the community effect. He said he was first trying to make further sense of the event. He said it did not seem as if there was a specific victim targeted by the slurs, which might keep it from being legally defined as a hate crime.
“There’s an angle to this that is no surprise,” Hughes said, “which is that people use those words as weapons to put other people down. The fact that they are insults and that they refer to actual people, to types of people, that to us is the concern.”
Contact staff writer Jeremy Day at firstname.lastname@example.org