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Tensions rise as swastikas are found in UNH dorm

The University of New Hampshire campus. Jim Cole/Associated Press/Associated Press/file

Swastikas were found drawn in a dormitory Friday at the University of New Hampshire, one day after a forum in which dozens of students urged administrators to do more to combat racial insensitivity.

University spokeswoman Erica Mantz strongly condemned the acts, writing that “every member of our community deserves to feel safe and respected, and we will not tolerate threatening behavior or bullying on social media or in person.”

As of Sunday, the swastikas had been removed from the dormitory stairwell and university police were investigating the incident, although no persons of interest had been identified, according to Mantz.

The swastikas came at the end of a turbulent week in which an overnight sit-in Wednesday was followed by a forum Thursday, where students met with the administration to discuss what they said was the school’s failure to address racism on campus.


Students told UNH president Mark Huddleston and other administrators that they felt the school had failed to meet their concerns and that racist incidents were surprisingly common on campus.

Several minority students described being spat upon or being called racial slurs while others described a growing level of intolerance on campus since the election of President Donald Trump, according to the Associated Press.

Besides telling their stories, the students demanded that the number of students and faculty of color be doubled, all staff undergo diversity training, and that the student code be changed to make posting racially insensitive content online an expulsion-worthy offense.

The controversy started when Danique Montique, a 20-year-old sophomore, posted a video showing her confronting a white student in a poncho on May 6, according to the AP.

Along with the video Montique wrote “I was utterly disgusted with students who chose to demean and appropriate Mexican culture. I walked on campus miserable as if I didn’t belong. As a black woman, I was forced to become the very thing society deemed me to be; angry.”


The video was shared over 3,000 times, prompting an outpouring of support as well as many critical comments.

Among the criticism was an Instagram photo allegedly showing a white UNH student wearing blackface and mocking Montique’s post, according to the AP.

The student told NH1.com that he was using a facial mask made of gray clay and that he wasn’t aware the photo had been taken.

“I want nothing to do with the photo that is associated with blackface, and I definitely don’t want my face associated with that caption,” the student said.

The post spread across UNH, leading 50 student activists to stage a sit-in on Wednesday, demanding that the school investigate the photo, according to the AP.

In response, the school held the forum on racial sensitivity in which Huddleston acknowledged there was more the administration could do for minorities on a mostly white campus.

Of the about 12,000 undergraduates, 423 are Latino and 165 are black.

“Obviously, there are incidents of bias and racism that are absolutely unacceptable — that for many of us go beneath the surface. . . . The point of the forum for me was to make sure that all of my team understands that and we do what we can to make it better,” Huddleston said to the AP.

Huddleston said that, in the decade he had been UNH’s president, he tried to ensure a “safe and welcoming campus,” but hadn’t been entirely successful.


“Obviously, we haven’t been able to do that,” he said. “In a lot of respects, we have a lot of work to do. But I would ask that you not disbelieve my intentions.”

Andrew Grant can be reached at andrew.grant@globe.com.