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Racially charged vandalism, fires in Sherwood Hall

Following recent bulletin board fires and outbreak of racially charged vandalism in Sherwood Hall, Dean of Students Douglas Pearson met with students for an open forum Thursday evening.

“This is very serious. We are looking at criminal activity here, and we are treating it as such,” Pearson said. 

A Sherwood Hall bulletin board has been set on fire twice in the past two weeks. But fire alarms never sounded.

“The reason [the alarm] was not triggered in the case of the recent bulletin board fire is because it was a small fire and the temperature did not reach the level required to set off the system, which is regularly tested, most recently in March,” said Jeff Takac.  “Additional stand-alone smoke detectors were installed in the lobby after the bulletin board fire as an extra precaution.”

Pearson assured students that after the incidents, the university made sure that this system was working properly.  

“Student safety is our highest priority,” Pearson said.

Following the fires, President William D. Underwood sent out a campus-wide email addressing a different Sherwood incident.

In it, Underwood addressed the racial slurs that had been written on the doors of Sherwood Hall residents Wednesday morning.  

“This type of hateful behavior has no place anywhere, and surely not at a university that strives to be a community of respect,” Underwood said in the email. “Mercer’s continued progress on issues of race over the past fifty years is evident simply by looking around our campus. Mercer has become a vibrant, exciting, and diverse community, ranked among the best universities in the South and also among the most racially diverse.”

Pearson talked briefly about this racially charged vandalism during his forum Thursday.

Sherwood residents are shaken by the recent incidents.

Freshman Josiah Takang posted on Facebook after he noticed the slur had been scrawled across his door in all caps.

“Needless to say, I’m profoundly irritated and offended,” Takang wrote. “I was under the impression that it was no longer 1960 in the hearts and minds of some, but it appears I’ve been proven wrong.”

We live in this building together and are supposed to be living here as a family or at least as mature adults. This is just sad.”

— Kyle Allen

Kyle Allen, another Sherwood resident, also shared his concerns.

“I hope whoever has done these things got whatever satisfaction they were trying to get out of this or whatever point they were trying to prove,” Allen said in an interview. “We live in this building together and are supposed to be living here as a family or at least as mature adults. This is just sad.”

Dean Pearson said that counselors are available to students, should they need one.

“I know that this can be stressful and scary,” Pearson said. “Take care of yourselves during this time.  Remember to keep your eyes open.”

Mercer police are continuing to investigate these events. Anyone with information regarding the perpetrator(s) is urged to call them.

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