YSU Students Paint Rock Red, White and Blue

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Early Monday morning, a graffiti-laden landmark rock at the center of the campus of Youngstown State University bore messages of hate and violence in support of the terrorist group ISIS.

By the afternoon, more than 50 students from the university had banded together to write a new message as the story caught the attention of the national news media.

“I support my campus,” said John Zurcher after he helped spray paint slogans such as “Land of the Free” and “God Bless America” on the rock. “We don’t need this sort of thing at YSU right now. This is unacceptable and I’m outraged.”

Early this morning,  university officials found the rock outside Kilcawley Center – often used as a message board for students across campus — painted with pro-ISIS sentiments, including “YSU Supports ISIS,” as well as what appeared to be Arabic script and the words “We are Coming.”

YSU student activities personnel painted over the rock this morning, while campus police began an investigation as to who is behind the vandalism. YSU also alerted local authorities and the FBI,  emphasizing that no credible threats exist to the campus, students, faculty or administration. Thus far, no information has been released on the status of the investigation.

By midday, the story had attracted national news organizations such as Fox News and spread to local television stations and newspapers across the country.

Jordan Wolfe, a senior and political science major, helped organize the re-painting contingent in response to the vandalism. He said in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the political science honors society Phi Sigma Alpha helped launch a fundraising campaign, “Pete for Paris,” to help the victims of that tragedy through donations to the Red Cross. In support of that effort, students painted the rock red, white and blue in the design of the French tricolor.

Wolfe and other friends saw the ISIS images of the rock on social media this morning and opted to do something about it: “We wanted to show solidarity among the students that regardless of race, religion, we know as Penguins that we don’t support ISIS and that propaganda isn’t indicative of the students here.”

Wolfe said he wasn’t aware of any groups or students opposed to his group’s fundraising activities.

Students painted peace signs and an American flag.

YSU President Jim Tressel added his touch by spray painting a star on that flag.

“It’s kind of neat to see them all together,” Tressel said. “The students’ reaction here tells you that they’re here together.”

Tressel said that no sort of threat is acceptable at YSU, and he values the inclusive nature of the university and students’ respect for one another.

Should the perpetrators turn out to be students, they would be treated fairly, Tressel stated.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s also great to see students out here talking about what’s important to them,” he said.

Also there to support the students was U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. “I want to be supportive of these kids,” he told reporters

Following the Paris attacks, people have every reason to be afraid of ongoing threats from terror groups, the congressman continued.

“The question is, do you let fear determine where you go or what you do and let it disrupt your life?  I hope that what happened in Paris is a reminder that we have to be a lot more vigilant than what we have been.”

YSU Beefs Up Security in Wake of ISIS Messages

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.