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George Washington Carver statue at Iowa State University vandalized

Ames police investigating whether incident was 'racially motivated'

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Iowa State University authorities are investigating vandalism to a statue of the school’s first African American student, George Washington Carver.

And ISU President Steven Leath said they’re taking the incident “very seriously” and looking into whether it was racially motivated.

“Anyone involved will be held accountable,” Leath said in a statement.

Investigators haven’t named suspects in the incident, which they believe occurred between 1 and 4 p.m. Friday, and they don’t yet have a motive.

ISU police first learned the George Washington Carver statue outside Carver Hall had been vandalized with what appeared to be shaving cream from a passer-by, who took photos to help with the investigation and then cleaned the statue, according to a news release.

Leath, in the statement, thanked that person and said damage to the statue — if any — is unknown at this time. The statue, he said, is a tribute to Carver, who became Iowa State’s first African American student in 1881 and then went on to become a world-renowned agriculturalist.

The incident comes as racial tensions flare on college campuses nationally, with incidents at the University of Missouri and Yale University most recently making headlines. The Missouri system president and campus chancellor resigned recently following outcry over their handling of racist incidents, and Yale students last week presented a list of demands to their president aimed at improving the climate on campus.

Iowa State students in September participated in a forum with administrators about racism after a woman, before a home football game, made a racist comment to an ISU student who was protesting Donald Trump’s planned visit and then ripped his sign.

The University of Iowa last semester similarly dealt with concerns about racism on its Iowa City campus after a visiting professor erected a statue resembling a member of the KKK on the Pentacrest without administrative permission. UI administrators quickly decried the incident, but that drew complaints from some concerned about free speech rights.

UI faculty on Friday held an “inclusive teach-in” aimed at discussing ways to address sensitive issues on campus before another crisis emerges.

Anyone with information on the Friday vandalism at Iowa State can call ISU police at 515-294-4428.

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