UI investigates 'racist remark' discovered on campus

Found carved on bathroom door, the phrase was quickly sanded off

University of Iowa students walk past the College of Business on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway on campus in Iowa City on Thursday, December 18, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
University of Iowa students walk past the College of Business on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway on campus in Iowa City on Thursday, December 18, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A “racist remark” was discovered carved into a bathroom door on campus Monday, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said in an email notice to the university community.

“This act is offensive to our community and will not be tolerated.” he wrote. “An investigation is underway and if the individual(s) responsible are identified, appropriate actions will be taken.”

The remark, which was not more fully described in Harreld’s email, was quickly sanded down so it could no longer be read. He said the remark was found on a bathroom door in the Spence Laboratories for Psychology, 308 E. Iowa Ave. According to the university, the building contains faculty offices and research labs.

The university’s investigation into the incident comes amid concerns raised across the country about racism and hate speech on campuses — that minority students often say they do not feel welcome or even safe at college.

In November, the head of the University of Missouri System, Tim Wolfe, resigned after criticism that he had responded belatedly and poorly to complaints about racism on campus.

At the UI in late 2014, an assistant professor erected on the Pentacrest a 7-foot-tall statue created in the likeness of a Ku Klux Klansmen and robed in print screenings of newspaper articles depicting racist incidents in U.S. history. It stood for about four hours before authorities took it down.

Although the artist said the work was meant to decry racism, many students interpreted it otherwise and issued a statement calling it “deeply offensive.”

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Sally Mason, then UI President, offered an apology for the display, saying it caused black students and community members to “feel terrorized and fear for their safety.”

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