Multiple incidents of graffiti were reported at various locations around campus during the winter break, according to the Cornell University Police Department crime log. Much of the graffiti contained similar themes, symbols and phrases.
The crime log indicates that CUPD officers were dispatched to take reports of spray-painted graffiti — listed under the category of “criminal mischief” — on Goldwin Smith Hall, the A.D. White statue, the base of Baker Flagpole, Milstein Hall, Balch Hall and the Risley Hall bus stop. Balch Hall and Goldwin Smith Hall reported multiple incidents. The crime log indicated that graffiti was also spray painted at the intersection of Cornell Avenue and University Avenue.
A hammer and sickle, a common communist symbol, was spray painted on both a statue of A.D. White on the Arts Quad and Baker Flagpole on West campus. “Cornell won’t save you” was also written in red paint on the flagpole and at a bus stop adjoining Risley Hall. Graffiti on the side of Sigma Pi’s fraternity house on University Avenue read “Kill your rapist.”
All incidents listed in the crime log are still under investigation, according to Chief Kathy Zoner of the CUPD. Zoner declined to comment on active cases in detail.
CUPD has directed patrols towards addressing these incidents, according to Zoner. The case of graffiti on University Ave is being investigated by the Ithaca Police Department, all other incidents are being handled by the CUPD.
“We take crimes such as these seriously,” Zoner said.
In an official statement released in an email on January 15, Zoner emphasized the need to balance free expression with lawfulness.
“Freedom of speech is an essential cornerstone to academic freedom and it is our job to protect it,” Zoner said in the statement. “We are also sworn to uphold the law which prohibits the damage and destruction of property and to enforce university policies addressing proper postering.”
Zoner said the motivation behind these acts remains unclear and police are still investigating the possibility that these incidents could be linked.
“At this point, only the perpetrator of these crimes could explain what their motivation is and what exactly they were hoping to communicate,” Zoner said.