Hate-filled graffiti sparks college students to inspire us all with these responses

Hate-filled graffiti sparks college students to inspire us all with these responses
Graffiti artist standing near the wall Photo: Shutterstock

Over the July 4, 2006 weekend, an individual or group scribbled hate-filled graffiti throughout the campus and the surroundings of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

The perpetrator or perpetrators of these criminal acts, in their own distorted way, linked the various forms of oppression by expressing misogynist, racist, heterosexist, cissexist, Islamophobic, and anti-Jewish epithets and symbols.

The timing of these actions around Independence Day highlighted the continuing attempt by some to exclude groups of people from participating in the liberty and justice promised in our founding documents, but not yet attained.

A committed and concerned group of student leaders organized a committee to confront the hate. They gave me the honor of serving as a faculty advisor.

At one of the initial meetings, they agreed by consensus to create a group statement. They ultimately titled it “Principles of Community” and listed their vision for a safe and inclusive campus community.

They arrived at these principles by engaging in a sizable number of one-on-one interviews with their student peers throughout the campus.

In the most recent National Civility Survey by KRC Research titled, “Civility in America 2018,” an overwhelming majority of 93% of U.S.-Americans reported a civility deficit in our nation. Most classified it as a major problem at 69%.

It was estimated that 84% of respondents experienced incivility in several places – both in person and online. The rate in which encounters occurred was frequent and averaging approximately 10.6 times per week.

As we begin a new school year, I share below the “Principles of Community” researched, written and initially distributed by a group of committed and compassionate students who took action to improve the physical and emotional climate of their campus back in 2006.

Principles of Community

Diversity is a journey that is continually evolving where different challenges are faced and solutions are sought. At Iowa State University, our journey is mapped by six Principles of Community. By using the Principles of Community as the compass, we show how we have begun our journey.


We seek to foster an open-minded understanding among individuals, organizations, and groups. We support this understanding through outreach, increasing opportunities for collaboration, formal education programs, and strategies for resolving disagreement.


We are encouraged to be engaged in the university community. Thus, we strive to build a genuine community that promotes leadership, the advancement of knowledge, cooperation, and leadership.


We recognize that the mission of the university is enhanced when we work together to achieve the goals of the university. Therefore, we value each member of the Iowa State University community for his or her insights and efforts, collective and individual, to enhance the quality of campus life.

Freedom from Discrimination

We acknowledge that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases in our society. Therefore, we must commit ourselves to create and maintain a community in which all students, staff, faculty, and administrators can work together in an atmosphere free from discrimination, and to respond appropriately to all acts of discrimination.

Honest and Respectful Expression of Ideas

We affirm the right to and the importance of a free exchange of ideas at Iowa State University within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. We work together to promote awareness of various ideas through education and constructive strategies to consider and engage in honest disagreements.

Richness of Diversity

We recognize and cherish the richness of diversity contributes in our university experience. Furthermore, we strive to increase the diversity of ideas, cultures and experiences throughout the university community.

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