Friday Feb. 22, letters were posted in academic buildings on the Sunken Garden and the Sadler Center at the College of William and Mary expressing homophobic, anti-Semitic and white-nationalist language. The identity of the individual who created the letters has not been revealed.
An illustration of a skull and crossbones was depicted on the letter, entitled a “Generation of Revenge.” The letter started by asking God to forgive men for their hedonist and sinful nature while simultaneously asking for revenge against Jewish and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Mary Grier ’22 first noticed the poster in Tyler Hall while waiting for her first class of the day to start.
“It took me a couple of seconds to figure out what it was because honestly it looked a lot like any other normal flyer,” Grier said in a written statement. “…(sic) Just a bunch of text and an illustration.” Upon reading the text and the illustration it became clear to Grier that the message was not a normal academic letter.
“I didn’t quite understand what the references were at first, but the rest of the language was so aggressive that it spooked me regardless,” Grier said. “I picked up on the homophobic bits pretty fast because I’ve heard [“Sodomites”] before, and the rest of it read very similar to other white supremacist beliefs and doctrine I’ve heard about in the news [or] on tv, so it wasn’t very far to jump to get to that conclusion.”
Grier ripped the poster down in response and took it to the William and Mary Police Department.
According to College Spokesperson Suzanne Clavet, WMPD responded to reports that the letter was posted in three places on campus: Earl Gregg Swem Library, Sadler Center and Tucker Hall. Clavet said that WMPD officers removed the letters as they violated campus policy. Personnel from Student Affairs assisted in their decision to take down the flyers.
“Campus policy requires that any poster or flyer carry the name of the sponsoring organization and the date (week) of posting,” Clavet said in a written statement. “At this point, we don’t know who is responsible for the flyers or the specific intent of the message on them. WMPD is aware of the flyers and at this time has found no criminal activity.”
In an official response to the poster, Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler affirmed the administration’s commitment to responding to student complaints regarding the posters.
“Late last week, members of the student affairs staff and the W&M Police Department (WMPD) responded to reports from several members of our community about concerning flyers posted on campus,” Ambler said in a written statement. “We take such reports from members of our community seriously. I am grateful to the WMPD who reached out immediately to staff in the affected buildings and met with them on site. The flyers in question violated the university’s posting policies and they were promptly removed. We are committed to responding right away to reports – formal or informal – regarding the safety of the W&M community.”
Rabbi Gershon Litt, director of the College’s Hillel program, denounced the letters as both hateful propaganda and a heinously incorrect usage of religion in an attempt to spread fear throughout the College community.
“Hate, judgment, and revenge are not characteristics of good, spiritual people,” Litt said in a written statement. “Likewise, organizations that cloak themselves as ‘religious’ or ‘for the good of society’ only want to bring others down due to their own lack of purpose. Lovers and pursuers of peace are people who accept others and empower others, but the authors of this hate speech pursue division and hatred.”
Litt went on to say that the letter does not accurately reflect the viewpoints of spiritual people.
“These words of hate and intolerance have no place on our campus. We, as a community, should fight this propaganda with weapons of acceptance, love, and unity.”
“The authors of this do not represent the American dream, they are not people of spirituality, and dare they even mention G-d in the same breath of their spewed repulsive words, they certainly are not ‘G-dly’ people,” Litt said. “These words of hate and intolerance have no place on our campus. We, as a community, should fight this propaganda with weapons of acceptance, love, and unity. Hillel strongly condemns this hate speech and everything it represents. May our community come together under the umbrella of unity against hate.”
Jewish students became alarmed after reading the letters. Naomi Gale ’22 expressed fear about knowing that there was an individual or individuals on campus with such violent views.
“I was quite scared knowing that there could be someone here that wants me dead because of my religion.”
“I was quite scared knowing that there could be someone here that wants me dead because of my religion,” Gale said in a written statement. “Of course, I’m aware of growing anti-Semitism on college campuses but it still really shocked me to hear about this happening at William and Mary. While I still feel safer here than a lot of my Jewish friends at other college campuses, the posters were a reality check at the same time.”
Anna Platt ’22 noticed the letters while attending class in Tucker Hall.
“I saw a police officer in Tucker looking for the posters, and a professor spoke to me and said he wouldn’t leave campus that night until they were all down and WMPD had started a full-on investigation,” Platt said.
Many members of the College’s political organizations came out together in support of the marginalized communities targeted by the unknown perpetrator.
“We at the College Republicans of the College of William & Mary would like to denounce the hateful message which has been promulgated by this poster,” College Republicans President Tom Callahan ’21 said in a written statement. “We firmly condemn hatred of any group regardless of class, sexual orientation, religion, race, political ideology or gender. We hope that the William & Mary community will come together in denouncing this vile rhetoric and promote a community of healthy respect.”
The Young Democratic Socialists also condemned the letter and referred to it as fascist. They also called for the WMPD to respond to the threats.
“The Young Democratic Socialists of America at William & Mary are deeply alarmed by the fascist posters which have been distributed throughout campus, calling for violence against Jewish and LGBTQ+ people,” Faisal Alami ’20 said in a written statement. “The administration and the WMPD must respond to these threats against marginalized groups by taking swift action. Their ongoing silence is troubling; far-right extremists are far and away the biggest threat to public safety in the United States. If the administration and the WMPD do not respond immediately, they may be endangering the lives of our marginalized students. The YDSA will continue to stand in defense and solidarity with marginalized groups against the threats of the far-right. We will not be intimidated by the fascists who produced and distributed those hateful flyers.”
WMPD and the administration are currently investigating the identity of the individual or individuals who posted the letter.