Report on Racist Graffiti Investigation

May 10, 2022

This message was sent from President Kim Cassidy and Dean Jennifer Walters on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Dear Bryn Mawr community,

On January 21 and February 1 of this year, two instances of hateful anti-Black graffiti were discovered in Rockefeller Hall on the second floor. These acts were attacks against members of our college community, and for many BIPOC students, faculty, and staff, created an atmosphere of fear and assaulted their sense of safety and belonging.  We promptly hired an experienced attorney, Maureen Holland, to carry out a detailed and thorough investigation.

After a comprehensive evaluation of all known and available information, including keycard records, text and social media messages, Campus Safety records, scene photographs, handwriting exemplars, and interviews with 22 individuals (several of whom were interviewed multiple times), Ms. Holland was unfortunately unable to definitively identify who committed the acts.

Based on the similarities in conduct, location, and timing of the two incidents, and after consulting with an expert in handwriting analysis, she believes that the two defacements were committed by the same person. Although both of these actions took place in a residence hall protected by keycard access, some students reported having non-Bryn Mawr friends and family members in the dorms during move-in and as visitors during the timeframe of the defacements. Therefore, the pool of potentially responsible individuals with access to the space where the racist graffiti occurred is broad. Ms. Holland is thus unable to determine whether the defacements were committed by someone who lived in the residence hall or whether they were committed by a non-resident. 

We thank all who responded in various ways to address the harms caused by these incidents and to support community members including CDAs, the Pensby team, alumnae, Campus Safety, counselors, deans, and faculty members. The time and care you invested in the well-being of those most deeply affected has been so important. In addition, significant time and effort was devoted to this investigation by Ms. Holland and by many in the community, and we are grateful to those who contributed.

The College will continue to build expertise and capacity to promote learning about racism, anti-blackness; to support BIPOC students; and to facilitate healing for individuals and our community. Increased Pensby Center staffing and programming have contributed to and will continue to contribute to this work, and the new requirement for undergraduates to complete a course exploring Power, Inequity, and Justice will involve many faculty in teaching and learning with our students. Information about our policies and about resources to combat bias and hate will be included in orientation sessions for new students, faculty, and staff.  Cross-campus work to develop transformative justice approaches to incidents of bias and hate will continue and draw upon the resources of the Social Justice Institute headed by Professor Darlyne Bailey.

Additionally, several College initiatives are also under way to empower members of the community to respond to incidents of all magnitudes. 

  • Associate Dean Ann-Therese Ortíz, who leads the Bias Incident Response Team, is working to strengthen the visibility and accessibility of the Team and its response procedures.
  • The Dorm Leadership Teams and other student leaders will have year-long training to equip them to build community and recognize and communicate the impact that racial and other forms of bias can create for community members.
  • The Honor Board plans to expand education about the Honor Code to make certain that the Honor Code is accessible to all members of the community. 
  • The new Dialogue Project, being piloted for feedback next week, will launch in the fall semester with the goal of strengthening the capacity of faculty, students, and staff to co-create a culture that practices deep listening and supports constructive dialogue models in every facet of campus life.

Hate speech does not belong at Bryn Mawr College. We had hoped that that the individual responsible would come forward, in keeping with the tenets of the Honor Code, or that Ms. Holland would have been able to gather sufficient evidence to identify the individual. Although the responsible person has not been identified to date, this does not weaken our resolve to do all that we can to ensure that our campus is one where all of its members know that we will support each other and stand against any attack against our community members, whether individually or as a group. 

There must also be accountability for such actions when we are able to find evidence linking an action to those responsible. Should additional information be brought to us in the future regarding this or any other incident, we will act on it with seriousness and immediacy. 


Kim Cassidy and Jennifer Walters