Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include statements made by University President Mark Schlissel and Rob Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion.
Anti-Latinx and pro-Trump graffiti were found on the Rock—an iconic University of Michigan landmark on Hill St and Washtenaw Ave frequently painted by students—Friday afternoon.
According to a Facebook post by Rackham student Richard Nunn, the rock read “F— Latinos” and “MAGA,” short for Make America Great Again, or the slogan of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Nunn wrote the racist graffiti defaced what was originally welcoming messages painted by the newest student cohort of Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement, a campus organization dedicated to educating and providing resources to incoming Latinx students at the University.
Photos posted later Friday afternoon show the slurs have been painted over by Hillel; the face of the rock now reads “Shabbat Shalom!”
As of early Saturday morning, Nunn’s post was shared more than 300 times, with many members of the campus community calling for action from administrators. Both ALMA and University spokespeople were unavailable to comment at the time of publication.
“Yesterday I co-facilitated a workshop for ALMA students on Community Cultural Wealth. Students engaged in conversations on the value of their culture and the resistance and strengths of our communities,” Rackham student Raul Gamez wrote in a public post. “University of Michigan needs to investigate this disgusting display of racism and intolerance!!”
History professor Matthew Countryman echoed Gamez’s emphatic post.
“A white nationalist welcome back to the UM community,” he wrote. “What they don’t know is that WE WON’T GO BACK!
Neither the University nor the city of Ann Arbor have been stranger to controversial graffiti and messages on campus in recent months; most recently, racist graffiti was found at the Ann Arbor Veterans Memorial Park. Last year, alt-right posters were found on campus several times throughout the presidential election—including threatening messages painted on the Rock the day after the election—sparking protests and demonstrations across campus.
University President Mark Schlissel addressed the issue during his speech at new student convocation on Friday.
“Rigorous discussion of conflicting viewpoints is one way we learn, but hateful displays by anonymous provocateurs do not enhance learning in any academic environment,” Schlissel said.
He also welcomed students of all backgrounds and noted the importance of having a diverse community on campus.
“I would like to reiterate to all of our students, from our own state, elsewhere around the country, and from all around the world, that you are welcome here,” Schlissel said. “We are proud you have decided to pursue your education at the University of Michigan. You make us a stronger university and enrich our community and nation by your many talents, hard work, and the diverse perspectives and life experiences you bring to campus.”
On Saturday morning, Rob Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion, released a statement regarding the incident, calling the writing on the Rock racist and noting it does not take away from the value of the Latinx community on campus.
“First and foremost, I’m sorry for the pain and anger that has occurred by this expression of hate,” Sellers’ statement reads. “These actions do not represent our University and have no place in our community. I personally denounce the incident and the individual(s) who painted this hateful message.”
Sellers also reiterated the University’s commitment to the efforts of the diversity, equity and inclusion plan, which is nearing the end of its first year as an initiative launched on campus.
“While the incident is despicable and disappointing, it will not impact my, or my office’s efforts in continuing to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive University community, one where all members, including our Latinx community, have an opportunity to reach their absolute potential,” Sellers wrote.