Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
As students on South Campus left their residence halls early Thursday morning, they were greeted by three words, that many have called hate speech, spray-painted on the side of a campus building.
“Long Live Zimmerman.”
These three words were spray-painted early Thursday on the west walls of Hale Hall, which is home to the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, part of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The reference, officials said, is most likely to George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader who allegedly killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense Feb. 26 in Florida.
President E. Gordon Gee issued a statement about the incident at about 1 p.m. assuring members of the university community that Ohio State Police are “vigorously investigating this incident.”
“Let me be very clear: This is not who we are at Ohio State. Racism will not be tolerated on our campus,” Gee said. “This is an opportunity to take a lead role in heightening awareness and seeking productive solutions to racial injustice that continues to challenge our country.”
Gee spoke at Hale Hall Thursday afternoon about the incident.
“Do I think it was random? Absolutely not. I mean, this is the Hale Center, this is our center for African-American community … Hale himself was an iconic leader,” Gee said. “This was the kind of thing that he spoke out about and against. He was a great friend of mine and I know exactly how he would feel about this right now. And I hope on his behalf I’m expressing my concern to all of you also.”
Frank Hale, the namesake for the building and center, died last summer after a battle with cancer.
Larry Williamson, director of the Hale Center, said actions were taken to remove the writing as soon as possible.
“We’re rallying together, as you can see, we’re working with University Police. As you can see, the Student Life is taking care of it and getting it off the building and things,” Williamson said. “Our thing is to just make sure that our students are going to be safe and … that things don’t actually happen.”
A Student Life employee removed the white spray paint from the the building at about 10 a.m.
“We want to be sure that these types of things don’t happen here at the Ohio State University,” Williamson said. “This is not the kind of climate that Ohio State is trying to have here at this university. The university prides itself in diversity and you have things like that that takes a step back.”
Williamson said he is taking measures to help ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“We’re dealing with the situation with heightened security,” Williamson said. “We’re going try to make sure that we do everything possible that these types of things don’t happen.”
Students on OSU’s campus collectively had an overwhelming feeling of shock and disappointment.
“Even in 2012 there’s still hate crimes and racism when we live in a society where we think there’s not,” said Ashley Belinski, a second-year in biology. “But there still is, and it’s shocking.”
Khris Johnson, a third-year in economics and public policy, called the act a hate crime.
“It’s almost like a hate crime for somebody to go and vandalize something, a place that we hold so near and dear as African-Americans,” Johnson said. “It felt like through the community we were getting a lot of positive feedback and a lot of people supported us and stuff like that.”
Linda Buckingham, a fourth-year in Spanish, said the actions by one do not represent the community of OSU as a whole.
“We’re not going to stop mankind. People are going to do crazy stuff. History just repeats itself. People have been doing bad things forever; they’re not going to stop,” Buckingham said. “We may correct behavior but you can’t stop someone from thinking evil things and eventually those thoughts become actions.”
Rallies and protests against racial profiling have occurred nationwide since Martin’s death.
Wednesday night on OSU’s Oval, an event called “Hoodies and Headscarves” drew about 200 people to stand up against all kinds of racial profiling.
Deputy Chief Richard Morman of University Police said Thursday morning that there are no suspects in the case, and that more information would become available when the reporting officer returns. It is still unknown if the area has surveillance cameras that were able to capture the incident.
“It’s upsetting that our university isn’t as united as I thought it was,” said Emma Schlegel, a first-year in pre-nursing. “Usually there aren’t issues that are that extreme.”
Sarah Stemen, Ritika Shah, Jaclyn Serpico, Ayan Sheikh and Ally Marotti contributed to this story.