Officials at Iowa’s Buena Vista University are offering a cash reward for anyone who has information about a rash of racist graffiti targeting students—including one former campus cheerleader who quit the team after she was told she couldn’t kneel during the playing of the national anthem.
In a statement, BVU president Joshua Merchant and Dean of Students Dale Scully called the graffiti a “hate crime” and warned it could be punishable by law (emphasis theirs):
Last Friday, the BVU campus community was made aware of an incident that occurred in Pierce and White residence halls regarding the writing of discriminatory, racist language and symbols on three dorm doors. Last night this same type of incident occurred again. This behavior is heinous and will not be tolerated. Three African-American students, two Caucasian students and one Hispanic student have been targeted.
Speaking with the Des Moines Register, Alyssa Parker, the former cheerleader, said she and other black students woke to find “nigger” written across their doors. The Latinx student referenced in the university’s message had the word “illegal” written across their door, and a swastika with the letters “KKK” was written on the door of the white students.
“I was just shaking pretty bad,” Parker told the paper. “I just wanted to go home and didn’t feel safe.”
Earlier this year, Parker gained a measure of notoriety around campus for publicly quitting the cheerleading team after being ordered not to kneel during the national anthem. In her letter to the school’s cheerleading coach, she wrote:
Coach, the cheer team is very important to me, but so are my personal beliefs. Standing for something I know isn’t right shouldn’t be forced on me... Changing how this campus thinks about social injustice, helping people understand, and moving this conversation forward is the type of thing I want to accomplish before I leave BVU. I don’t want to upset you or the team, but this is what I need to do.
BVU’s black student union—which Parker helped found in 2016—issued a statement condemning the vandalism and urging students “to be unified as one, and use the resources that we have on campus, such as faculty/staff, allies, and other students of color that surround us.”
In addition to an increased security presence around the school, as well as continued contact with local police, BVU officials are also offering a $500 reward for any students with information about the graffiti which leads to a criminal conviction.