GORHAM — Two student senators at the University of Southern Maine resigned their positions Friday after students protested how they handled the discovery of anti-Muslim graffiti in the student government offices.

The resignations were announced at an emotional two-hour-plus meeting of the Student Senate, dominated by a string of student speakers demanding that the entire board resign over the incident. About half the seats in the 21-seat Senate are currently vacant.

Derrick Stanley and Benjamin Bussiere both apologized in their resignation statements.

The two were criticized for saying the graffiti – the Latin phrase “Deus Vult” or “God Wills It” – should be cleaned up and not reported to campus police. Other student body officials who discovered the graffiti, written on a desk and on a wall, had already taken pictures of it and filed a report with campus police, they said Friday.

The phrase was used as a rallying cry for Christians during the Crusades in medieval times, and recently has been adopted by the alt-right political movement as an anti-Muslim insult.

USM President Glenn Cummings condemned the graffiti, and the campus police are investigating it as a hate crime.


USM spokesman Bob Stein said the campus police report will be sent to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office for a review of whether charges should be brought. Campus officials are also conducting an investigation to see if the student who wrote the graffiti – who is known to the senators – broke the student conduct code.

The students and campus officials are not releasing the student’s name because of the investigation.

Critics on Friday focused not just on the graffiti, but on a string of texts – between student leaders about how to deal with the graffiti – that was widely distributed on social media.

In it, some of the students are dismissive of the incident and use other anti-Muslim references, including a pig emoji and sarcastic references to Sharia law and Muslim religious phrases.

“It’s not right, it’s not OK,” said sophomore Fatuma Awale, a Muslim, as she held up a copy of the senators’ exchange. She and others said they didn’t accept the senators’ apology. “Don’t act like the victim.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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