Harvard University police are investigating if a hate crime took place after photos of black law professors were found crossed out with black tape Thursday morning.
The defaced photos, which hang in Wasserstein Hall on campus, prompted a demonstration in a constitutional law class taught by the school's dean, Martha Minow, Harvard Law student Kendra Albert told BuzzFeed News.
An hour later, a last-minute community meeting took place, with around 350 students in attendance. Minow was also present.
In a statement, Minow said campus police investigating the incident as a hate crime:
Expressions of hatred are abhorrent, whether they be directed at race, sex, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, or any other targets of bigotry. Here at HLS, we are focused on efforts to improve our community, examining structures that may contribute to negative experiences of any members of our community, and pursuing opportunities where the School can both change and support change.
Later in the afternoon, after the tape was removed, students attached stick notes to the black faculty portraits with heartfelt words of encouragement.
The incident came one day after Harvard students participated in a joint demonstration with Tufts University to raise awareness of unfair racial treatment on college campuses across the country.
According to Brianna Suslovic, an undergraduate senior at Harvard, students from both schools marched to Porter Square in Cambridge.
Suslovic told BuzzFeed News that news of the defacement was shocking.
"I’m quite honestly taken aback by how emotional my own response has been," she said. "It's rare that someone so blatantly and intentionally has said that people who look like me don’t belong on campus."
The 21-year-old anthropology major added that one of the professors whose photo had been taped over, Ronald Sullivan, serves as the housemaster of a dorm building she lived in.
Suslovic added that Thursday's incident at Harvard, as well as several others at university campuses across the U.S., have ignited conversations about the boundaries of free speech.
"What we’re missing in these conversations is a discussion of history," she said. "These aren’t places that were built for us."
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
Contact Tamerra Griffin at email@example.com.
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