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“DECOLONIZE” spray-painted on library

May 11, 2017 Will Balser

On the morning of Thursday, April 6 many students arrived on campus to see two messages reading “DECOLONIZE” and “ENOUGH LIP SERVICE” spray painted onto the facade and sidewalk of the Ralph Pickard Bell Library. The writing was removed by facilities management by noon that day.

Though there was no official statement published by the administration to the university community, The Argosy received the following on the day of the incident:

“Mount Allison’s Facilities Management department received a report just before 8 a.m. on Thursday, April 6, of graffiti on the Ralph Pickard Bell Library as well as on the sidewalk in front of the library. The University aims to remove graffiti as quickly as possible in order to minimize damage to buildings. In this case, there was potential for significant damage to the building because the graffiti was written on sandstone, and it was removed by shortly after 11 a.m.

“There have been a couple of instances this year of graffiti appearing on campus. In each case, the graffiti was removed. Graffiti or vandalism involving offensive text or images would be investigated and appropriate action taken. The University would also consider communications to the campus community in such a case.

“If students were responsible for defacement of property, provisions in the Student Code of Conduct would apply. If the vandalism was committed by someone outside the Mount Allison community, it could be referred to the RCMP.”

Facilities management removing “decolonize” from the face of the R. R. Bell Library. Ryan Macrae/submitted

Despite the short period during which the painted messages were visible to the student body, the few photos taken spread across several social media platforms and sparked a campus-wide discussion.

Fourth-year student Osama Al Nammary said that the act caused him and others to feel unsafe while on campus and at the library. “While I do not want to discredit the important message, there are different ways of sending that message,” Al Nammary said.

Following the community’s initial reactions came speculation about who wrote the message, principally targeted toward Indigenous students and Divest MTA organizers. Divest MTA is a climate justice group demanding the university cut all financial ties with the fossil fuel industry that has included the topic of decolonization in many of their communications.

In response to the allegations, Divest MTA organizer Naomi Goldberg said, “Divest MTA, although suspected of spray-painting the message, neither organized nor carried out this act. Although we wouldn’t have chosen this tactic, we don’t know what the person or people who did it have been through, and we respect that someone might have felt compelled to do this.”

Fourth-year student and Indigenous Affairs Intern Emma Hassencahl said that she was not surprised by how quickly the message was removed, and that her first thoughts concerned who would be blamed. “My initial thought was: Are they going to pin this on Indigenous students? And then my second thought was: No, I think they’re going to pin it on divestment.”

Hassencahl also expressed skepticism toward the part of the graffiti’s message.  “I guess I’m failing to see the steps toward decolonization in any university setting, because the academy is a system that has been in place for hundreds of years, and that’s not going to be undone. So I agree with the “lip service” statement, but decolonization – I don’t believe that will happen here.”

Director of Facilities Management Neil MacEachern said, “In terms of graffiti, we generally try to remove it as quickly as possible. Once we’re made aware of it, we will actually put a process in place to make sure it’s gone within 24 hours at the latest. Mainly because it is, in essence, vandalism, because it is damage to buildings.” MacEachern also noted that it took four to five workers approximately two to three hours to remove the message.

With files from Naomi Goldberg