As you know, there is a long tradition of students painting the cannon on our Medford/Somerville campus to promote events, share messages of joy and sorrow, and express views on world matters. The cannon is a celebrated place for students and community members to express free speech. The administration only monitors the cannon for hate speech and symbols, or sexually inappropriate graffiti. This weekend students painted messages on the cannon to mourn deceased Palestinians and to show respect for their plight. Unfortunately, they soon discovered their messages had been vandalized with crude and vulgar sexual drawings and comments. Coming in the midst of the violence in the region and near one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar, we cannot view this as simple graffiti. Rather, it would appear to be an attack on the viewpoints expressed and those who expressed them. This is not acceptable, and we condemn these actions. Upon learning of this incident, we immediately responded and are investigating it through the Office of Equal Opportunity’s adjudication process.
All students have a right to advocate on the cannon for issues of importance to themselves and their communities, and they have the right to do so without being faced with crude and offensive language or intimidation of any kind. Regardless of your views on current events, I hope we can all agree that defiling the messages on the cannon violates not just our rules and traditions, it also violates our values as a university. We have spoken out before when other communities have faced this issue. We are doing so today. And we will continue to do so.
Amid the ongoing violence in the Middle East, this is a particularly difficult time for many in our community. Students on our campus have passionate perspectives about what is transpiring. These viewpoints are often in conflict with each other, and that is expected. It is what we do with these conflicting perspectives that defines our community. We are an educational institution where respectful debate is encouraged, informed opinions are valued, and common ground is sought. Even on days when finding this common ground seems unlikely, we must never give up on the effort.