Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Police were searching Wednesday for five people who allegedly painted slurs on the sidewalks of the quad last weekend that might have been homophobic.
Spray-painting the rock at the center of the Stratton Quadrangle is a long-standing tradition at SIUE, “within reason,” according to SIUE Police. But only the rock is fair game; in this case, someone spray-painted words onto the pavement surrounding the rock, and at another location elsewhere on campus, police said. That makes it defacement of state property, police said.
The five young people caught on camera spray-painted “MBE” on the rock itself, then additional words on the pavement surrounding it, police said. Police believe it took place in the early hours of Saturday morning. A Facebook post from SIUE Police described the suspects as three white males and two white females. The post said they left the scene on foot.
While SIUE Police would not go into details as to the content of the message, SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga originally said they believed the words to be a homophobic slur. Later, however, he said their further analysis of the profanity showed it might be simple vandalism and not homophobia.
This isn’t the first time problematic messages have cropped up on campus. Last year, a racist note was left on a student’s on-campus apartment door and a Confederate flag was painted on the boulder in the quad. A few weeks later, flyers for the white supremacist group Identity Evropa were found on campus, and a racist message referencing the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision was left in an SIUE classroom.
In the past year, the university launched a new initiative advocating multiculturalism and racial harmony, and the students created The Door Project, writing messages of peace and brotherhood on a door propped in the center of the quad.