HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Graffiti depicting the symbols of a white supremacist group appeared on Northern Kentucky University's campus over the weekend.
University officials said they won't tolerate white supremacy and are investigating the vandalism.
During the early hours of April 3, freshman JJ Huston and his friends found the rock had been vandalized with the Patriot Front tag. The Patriot Front is identified as a white supremacist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
It isn’t the first time the “Housing Rock” on NKU’s campus, on which students normally paint positive messages, has been vandalized and had to be repainted.
Graffiti from the Patriot Front appeared on the rock in January.
“It’s a shock from the standpoint that these people would go ahead and do it again,” Huston said.
The faces of Black individuals that a friend of Huston’s had painted on the rock to commemorate Black History Month were crossed out with white Xs.
They also found Patriot Front written in blue paint on the rock with a trail of blue paint specks leading away from the rock. Huston and his friends found Patriot Front stickers, he estimated about 30, posted on surfaces throughout campus.
NKU President Dr. Ashish Vaidya issued the following statement:
"NKU will not tolerate the white supremacy graffiti defacing our campus today or any day. This latest act of vandalism is contrary to our core values and our commitment to fostering a more equitable, inclusive environment in which everyone is valued and free from discrimination of any kind. We will fully investigate these acts through the university’s Bias Response Protocol Team and immediately evaluate and refortify the security of our public spaces to better protect our residents and the campus community. This includes increasing University Police nightly patrols.
NKU is privileged to serve more than 16,000 students with broad perspectives and world views from all walks of life. Our community cannot thrive when individuals are targeted because of the color of their skin, how they look, who they love, or how they identify themselves. We believe our campus is enriched by diversity in thought and experience gained by welcoming people from all backgrounds and perspectives. This is woven into the very fabric of what NKU stands for and holds dear. Every one of us in the NKU family must live these values every day. This is what drives our success and our purpose in a shared responsibility to create a welcoming place of hope and vibrancy for all of our students, faculty and staff."
Dr. Eddie Howard, vice president of Student Affairs, said NKU administrators stand in solidarity with marginalized students on campus.
“We want to let them know we support them and we hear them,” he said. “We know this is the second incident that has occurred, and we are taking what I consider to be decisive actions in regards to how we’re going to respond.”
Huston said the two acts of vandalism aren’t the only issues dealing with race he’s seen in his short time on campus and said statements aren’t enough to make him feel safe.
“How can you feel safe when somebody can do this. They’ve left paint tracks, they got 30 different stickers around campus, and they still can’t tell us who’s done this,” he said. “How can you feel safe?”
“NKU needs to realize these statements are doing nothing. Nobody cares about these statements anymore.”
Tuesday, Howard released a statement outlining new plans by the university to protect the rock. University Police will increase patrols and surveillance around the rock and other areas on campus. Howard said he has also asked the Center for Student Inclusiveness for an "incident response plan," which would include long-term strategies. He has asked the team to present guidelines and a plan to move forward.
Howard announced NKU is beginning a new campaign called "Watch the Rock." "Watch the Rock" will be a live-stream webcam of the rock and areas around it 24 hours a day. In the statement, Howard asks everyone in the campus community to help protect the campus. Howard wrote, "If you see something, say something."
The school hopes to have the new "Watch the Rock" website up in a few days.