PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Southern Maine Police Department is investigating graffiti found in a student government office as a possible hate crime.
On Wednesday, students found the phrase “Deus vult” written twice in the Woodbury Campus Center. The Latin phrase literally translates to “God wills it” and is believed to have been used as a rallying cry by Pope Urban II in a 1095 speech that launched the First Crusade.
“This reprehensible act” is being viewed as anti-Muslim and investigated by campus police, USM President Glenn Cummings said Thursday in a statement to the school community.
“To our Muslim students I want to express how sorry I am this has happened,” said Cummings. “This is not who USM is or wants to be.”
It is not clear at this time who wrote the words, nor what the intent was, said USM spokesman Bob Stein. The phrase was written on a desk drawer and on an electrical outlet, according to Stein.
“It’s not splattered across a wall or anything like that,” he said.
Members of student government and the campus Police Department did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
USM Student Body President Muhammad “Humza” Khan told the Portland Press Herald that the graffiti had been drawn by a male student while two student senators were in the office, but he declined to identify the person responsible. The witnesses said they did not understand the meaning of the graffiti, he said.
The graffiti was found days after five Muslim students of color requested applications to become student senators, according to a Facebook post by Student Body Vice President Matthew Raymond.
“I believe this act of criminal intimidation to be linked to that fact,” wrote Raymond.