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University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld condemned racist graffiti that was found carved in a bathroom door on campus Monday, saying UI was conducting an investigation.

In a statement sent Monday night, Harreld said UI was notified that a racist remark was discovered on a bathroom door that day in Spence Laboratories, 308 Iowa Ave. UI's director of public safety characterized the vandalism as a possible hate crime.

"This door was immediately sanded down to remove the comment," Harreld said in the statement. "This act is offensive to our community and will not be tolerated. An investigation is underway and if the individual(s) responsible are identified, appropriate actions will be taken."

In an email, David Visin, UI interim assistant vice president and director of public safety, said the graffiti contained a racial slur but there was no threatening language other than the slur itself.

Visin said UI was not releasing the specifics of the language, which was found on an interior door inside a restroom, to protect the integrity of the investigation. There is no indication of any safety concerns on campus, he said.

"I want to reiterate that we take all crimes, especially hate crimes, very seriously, and are conducting a criminal investigation at this time," Visin said in the email. "If we find the person responsible we will prosecute them to the fullest extent the law allows."

The incident comes at a time of heightened racial tensions on campuses nationally. On Nov. 19, the discovery of slashes of tape across the portraits of some black professors at Harvard Law School sparked outrage there. And racial incidents at Yale University and the University of Missouri this fall have led to a series of protests, rallies and forums at predominantly white universities across the country — including Iowa's three public institutions.

Racial tensions rose in 2014 at UI when students spoke out against a sculpture placed on the Pentacrest that depicted a Ku Klux Klansman plastered with Civil Rights-era newspapers, created by an artist who said he was trying to raise awareness of the continuing existence of racist ideology.

Jodie Plumert, professor and chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, which is housed in Spence Laboratories, also denounced Monday's vandalism.

"I join with President Harreld in condemning this cowardly and hateful message," Plumert said in the statement. "I am profoundly disappointed that someone would leave this racist message in our building, and agree that such actions will not be tolerated in our community."

UI is asking anyone with information relating to the incident to contact UI Police at 335-5022. UI also is directing those distressed by the incident to its safety and support resources website: www.uiowa.edu/homepage/safety-and-support.

"We are asking our community for their help in solving this crime," Visin said via email. "Many crimes are solved by tips from our community and if anyone has information, no matter how minimal it would be, we would like to be contacted."

Reach Josh O’Leary at joleary@press-citizen.com or 887-5415, and follow him on Twitter at @JD_OLeary.

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