Student cars and residence target of anti-gay graffiti, charges pending on student suspect

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Ellen Kanzinger

Students sign the banner. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger ’18

Anti-gay sentiments were found spray-painted on four Washington and Lee student cars and the doors of a student residence late Wednesday night in an act of vandalism.

Washington and Lee Public Safety and the Lexington Police Department identified one student suspect after an investigation early Thursday afternoon. But charges are pending, Dean of Students Sidney Evans said in an email to students, faculty and staff.

Evans said the graffiti was directed at an individual student, identified as junior Elliot Emadian, Resident Advisor at the Sustainability House, located at 218 E. Nelson St. in Davidson Park.

“There were several things written on the house, one of which happened to be a gay slur followed by my name,” Emadian clarified in an email. “So yes, I believe I was the intended target of that particular remark.”.

The Executive Committee responded with an email to the university community condemning the act.

“This attack was an attempt to define our community as hateful and unwelcoming, a definition we cannot let stand,” the email said.

Emadian said he did not like to label the incident using the word ‘attack,’ as “it validates that this is some sort of rational, intentional, calculated plan that was undertaken. I think it was a senseless and thoughtless act,” he said.

Executive Committee President Mason Grist ‘18 said the incident is disheartening. He hopes the targeted student knows that he has a lot of support from fellow students, he said.

“I don’t think that this is indicative of how the rest of the W&L community thinks,” Grist said.

The student who allegedly committed this act was a former member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, according to the EC’s email, which the fraternity also signed.

“The men of Beta Theta Pi stand with the EC in their condemnation of this virulent action,” the email said. “No member of Beta shares the beliefs portrayed in Davidson Park.”

President of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity Patrick Quinlan ‘17 said the fraternity promptly dealt with the issue.

“Upon learning the details of the incident, the leadership of the fraternity took immediate action to inform the proper members of the administration of the actions of our former member and promptly terminated his membership in our organization,” Quinlan said in an email.

Students, faculty and staff gathered in what became a packed Commons Living Room Thursday evening to show support and solidarity.

“I’m so proud of the students who came forward who shared what I know was difficult for them to share, so that we were able to figure out what happened very quickly and address it very quickly,” Evans told the crowd.

The floor was then opened for attendees who wished to offer reflections on the day and words of encouragement moving forward. A methodical stream of community members came forward for over half an hour before allowing Emadian the opportunity to publicly open up about his own experiences.

Sharing with the crowd his story of seeing the graffiti for the first time early Thursday morning, Emadian said, “I was strangely not upset … because I know that an isolated incident like that is not representative of what this campus believes.”

Following Emadian’s expression of gratitude for the support he has received, University Counselor and LGBTQ Coordinator Rallie Snowden encouraged attendees to sign their names or write inspirational messages on a banner. Community members painted the banner with rainbow hand prints and hearts earlier in the afternoon.

Grist said open conversations about these things are really important for the community.

“I hope that, if anything, [the event] just prompts healthy, good conversation about how we could be more inclusive at W&L,” Grist said.