Cornell Police are searching for a suspect who administrators in the College of Veterinary Medicine believe yanked a Black Lives Matter sign twice from an employee’s door and then vandalized it when it was replaced.
Deputy Chief David Honan confirmed that the apparent thefts and vandalism are “under active criminal investigation” and declined to provide any additional information.
The small Black Lives Matter poster, which Audrey Z. Baker ’09 taped to her door in Schurman Hall, was first removed on Jan. 11, according to Baker, an evaluation and assessment specialist in the college.
Baker said she replaced the sign, which again went missing on Tuesday. Using stronger tape, she replaced it again, but when she returned to her office, Baker said, the sign was scratched out with pen.
Lorin D. Warnick, the dean of the college, said in a letter to staff that the college has “zero tolerance for defacing of public or private property, hate speech or discrimination.”
“This sort of behavior performed under the cloak of anonymity threatens the open and inclusive climate we seek to create,” Warnick said.
Other signs on Baker’s door, which promote LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights, were not vandalized or pulled and down and remain.
In an interview, Baker said she put the signs up to “push the conversation around equity and what it means for public health.”
“I put little stickers on each of [the signs] that said ‘this is public health’ as a conversation starter campaign about social movements and their relation to public health,” Baker said. “I thought maybe this could start conversations with students when they come back after the break.”
Baker said she notified her superiors and submitted a bias report after the first incident.
Faculty and staff were supportive of Baker in a team meeting discussing the incidents surrounding the BLM sign, and some proposed responding by putting up signs of their own, Baker said.
“A couple of them came to me and said ‘Hey I don’t like to put political things up but now I’m mad, can I have one of those signs?’” Baker said. “Now people are posting Black Lives Matter signs all over CVM.”