A pair of signs containing racial epithets appeared outside the University of South Carolina's African American Studies department Tuesday morning, setting off a firestorm of complaints to the university and prompting an internal investigation.
Senior journalism student Leland Williams Jr. posted a picture of the signs on Instagram and Facebook on Tuesday, the first day of classes for the spring semester.
The signs partially covered a display of photos of historically important black South Carolinians on the second floor of Gambrell Hall, a liberal arts building at the university's downtown Columbia campus. They refer to President Donald Trump, 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Clinton's Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
The signs referenced "you stupid monkeys" and other derogatory terms.
Williams said he and other minority students found out about the sign around 9 a.m. via a group text message on GroupMe that includes many members of minority student organizations at USC.
"The whole minority student body found out," Williams said.
A university spokesman sent the following statement via email Tuesday afternoon:
"This morning, flyers bearing racist language were discovered in several buildings on campus. This is unacceptable and inconsistent with our institutional values. At UofSC, we strive to create a campus built on the tenets of the Carolinian Creed, inclusivity and respect for all. These racist messages run contrary to who we are as Gamecocks and have no place at Carolina. University officials are continuing to investigate the matter."
Later in the day, he wrote that the investigation was ongoing, adding:
"Eyewitnesses observed a white male that appeared to be in his mid-40s in the area at the time the flyers were discovered. Video surveillance confirms that description and USCPD is working to identify the individual. Officials are not sure if he has any connection to the university."
Student Body Vice President Dani Goodreau condemned the signs on Twitter Tuesday, writing that she was "disgusted."
"This is an attack on our colleagues, our friends and our Carolina home," Goodreau said. "This is an attack on our heart, our mind. I remain trusting in our university's administration to stand against this atrocious display of racism — and an attack on UofSC core beliefs."
Williams said he hopes the university follows through on the investigation.
"It kind of feels like USC doesn’t care about us, honestly," Williams said. "It keeps happening in these small little instances, and it’s turning into something like this — we’re being called monkeys."
Racially provocative signs have appeared at multiple colleges and universities around the state in the past year. Clemson University students found Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers on campus in February 2017.
In November 2017, students at Coastal Carolina University and the University of South Carolina found signs posted around their campuses that said, "It's okay to be white." The slogan was popularized on 4chan, an online message board that has become popular with white supremacists and the "alt-right."