Adams House’s Hampden Hall has been plagued by a string of vandalism — ranging from racist language and crude drawings to defaced photos and targeted notes — since at least last October.
Students who live in Hampden Hall, a six-floor swing housing complex located above the Harvard Bookstore, have reported ongoing graffiti and offensive notes left in the elevator and on bulletin boards, windowsills, and walls. Though the acts have been reported on multiple floors, they have been mostly concentrated on the third floor.
In a Wednesday email to Adams House residents, Faculty Deans Mercedes C. “Mercy” Becerra ’91 and Salmaan A. Keshavjee and Resident Dean Charles “Chip” Lockwood called the repeated acts “completely unacceptable” and “antithetical” to house expectations.
“We will continue to do everything we can to stop this, and anyone found responsible will face immediate disciplinary action,” they wrote.
The faculty deans also wrote that they had filed a report with the Harvard University Police Department and increased the presence of Securitas guards in the hall. Per HUPD records, the report was filed on Tuesday to investigate vandalism dating back to Oct. 1 of last year.
HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote that the graffiti and tagging filed in the report were “not bias-related,” and Tuesday night was the first time vandalism had been officially reported to the department.
Residents say that the vandalism has persisted over the course of several months. Hampden third-floor resident Emily E. Sanchez ’23 said she saw and crossed out the phrase “N-WORD,” in reference to the racist slur, written on a windowsill earlier this semester.
Last fall, residents on multiple floors noticed that their name tags had disappeared from their doors. Some name tags were crumpled in a pile and left on the first floor, per a November email resident tutors sent to their entryway.
Fifth-floor resident Emma F. Kearney ’22 wrote in an email that she found the disappearance of her nametag “odd,” but did not originally assume it was an act of vandalism.
Then, the acts began to “escalate,” Sanchez said, to graffiti akin to what “middle school teenage boys” might draw.
Throughout last semester, Sanchez said she noticed phallic drawings and crude language written on the elevator and third-floor bulletin board, where tutors had provided markers for students to leave notes.
Overnight on Dec. 10, several bulletin boards were torn down and a picture of the third-floor resident tutors and their family was stolen and defaced. Earlier that week, on the sixth floor, flyers were removed from a bulletin board and strewn about the ground.
On Dec. 13, Becerra, Keshavjee, and Lockwood penned an email to Hampden residents calling the acts of vandalism “unacceptable” and “insulting” and implored the perpetrators to stop.
“Adams House is far more than a collection of remarkable buildings. It is our home, and this type of behavior should not be accepted by any of us,” they wrote.
Some of the acts appeared to be targeted at a third-floor resident. Victor A. Rangel ’23, said he noticed comments written on bulletin boards targeting him by name in November. The first note asked him to “open a window,” which Rangel said insinuated he had been smoking in his dorm.
Rangel, who said he does not smoke, wrote below the note saying so. A flurry of notes later, including some defending Rangel, a bulletin board note that said “We beat Yale” was altered to say “We beat Victor.”
Then, again in early February, the words “Fuck yu” were added to a note on the bulletin board that originally contained a message of support — Victor’s name with a drawing of a heart.
Rangel said he believes the targeted notes could be partially “rooted in xenophobia or racism.”
“There’s at least 15 people living on our floor,” Rangel said. “So the fact that someone would assume that I, as the only Latino man living on the floor, am the one smoking at the entryway is crazy to me.”
Elizabeth I. Ogolo ’24, a Hampden resident, said the note “felt like a racially-motivated accusation.”
In response to the ongoing vandalism, some Adams entryways began the spring semester with meetings discussing communal living norms, according to tutor emails. The Adams House faculty deans also hosted a gathering Thursday.
In a Wednesday statement emailed to The Crimson, Becerra and Keshavjee, the Adams faculty deans, deplored the acts as “deeply hurtful” to Adams residents.
Some Adams residents said the incidents have changed their perception of safety in the entryway.
“Knowing that there are people of color on my floor, knowing that my proctors are Black people, knowing that I’m a Black person, knowing that the only people that seem to rarely be victimized in a lot of these situations happen to be white leaves a terrible taste in my mouth,” Ogolo said.
Sanchez, who recently applied to transfer out of Adams, said ongoing vandalism was a factor in her decision.
“I have no idea why anybody is doing it, don't know who it is,” Sanchez said. “All I know is that it’s kind of annoying. It’s annoying and insensitive, and it doesn’t make Hampden feel like an entryway or like a home.”
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.