RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) --Vandals struck the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside over spring break, tearing down a Palestinian flag and photos of female grad students, tampering with mailboxes and causing other damage, officials said.
The chair of the department said the damage appeared to target Muslim images and minority women. The acts included the tearing down of biographies and photos of four minority female graduate students; damage to student mailboxes and an office bookcase; and the tearing down of material related to Palestine, including an image of a Palestinian flag.
Department chair Dylan Rodriguez also said the office of a faculty member in the interdisciplinary building was broken into recently, though it wasn't certain if the two incidents were related.
Rodriguez posted a letter online to colleagues and students to condemn the acts.
"I am writing to all of you, on behalf of the Department of Ethnic Studies, to condemn these despicable acts of symbolic and cultural violence, threat, and harassment," Rodriguez wrote.
"Women of color have been specifically targeted by these parties, and the available information makes it abundantly clear that these acts of violence are significantly motivated by anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiment and/or ideology. Given the surrounding political and cultural climate, it is imperative that those of us who believe in notions of collective safety, physical and emotional integrity, and social justice remain locked in arms with all who were directly and symbolically targeted by these acts."
The campus chancellor, Kim A. Wilcox, wrote to the school community that the UC Police Department is investigating the incidents as hate crimes.
"Any time a member of our community is threatened, it is an affront to our entire campus," Wilcox wrote. "Our entire mission is predicated on creating a diverse and accepting campus. These incidents are being vigorously investigated, and we will fully prosecute those responsible."