Students apologize for graffiti

Southern Oregon University students Blake Adkins and Kevin Novotny were bored and roaming the dorm hallways looking for a ping-pong table one night last month when they made what they both describe as the worst decision of their lives.

On the white walls of two dorm hallways — including one with a gender-neutral floor that houses several gay students — they wrote what police called anti-gay graffiti.

"We already had markers in our hands and we started to draw stuff on the walls, and it escalated," Adkins said.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Adkins, 19, and Novotny, 20, admitted to the crime and apologized for it.

"Kevin and I would like to say that we're deeply and sincerely sorry to all that were affected," Adkins said.

"Absolutely," said Novotny, who sat beside Adkins in an empty SOU math classroom.

"We're good people, we just made a mistake," Adkins added. "It was a reckless act. It wasn't supposed to be a hate crime or anything like that. It was a poor choice of words."

Adkins and Novotny said they plan to apologize in person Friday to residents of the dorms hit by the graffiti and to also write each resident a letter of apology. In the coming days, they plan to begin volunteering at the university's Queer Resource Center.

"We are voluntarily doing things in a positive manner to show that we are good citizens and we do care and love everyone," Adkins said.

They said they didn't know Diamond Hall had a gender-neutral floor when they scrawled graffiti there, and that they didn't intend to intimidate anyone.

"By no means are we homophobic," Adkins said. "Unfortunately we managed to hit some halls that had special floors and that was an unintentional and unknowing mistake."

Adkins and Novotny were arrested on April 30 and charged with second-degree criminal mischief. An intimidation charge against Adkins was dropped. They pleaded guilty on May 19 to the violation and received a $400 fine, they said. They could have received up to a $720 fine, Adkins said.

As of Wednesday evening, they were still waiting to hear whether they will face discipline from the university.

If the students, who both live in dorms on campus, are found to have violated the university's code of conduct, they could "receive anything from a warning to permanent dismissal," said Jonathan Eldridge, SOU's vice president for student affairs.

The graffiti consisted of slang words with sexual and homophobic connotations written next to some of the names of the residents.

Adkins and Novotny said they didn't know any of the people they wrote about, and that they got the names from signs on the dorm doors.

They said they wrote graffiti in Diamond and Hawthorne halls because they were the dorms they could get into. The doors to the other halls in the Cascade Complex were locked, they said.

— Ashland Daily Tidings

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