Trigger Warning: suicide, self-harm
By Lisa Jesudas and Franciszek Dziduch
— On Tuesday 6 September, students travelling to and from their morning classes were compelled to stop and read a shocking message painted on the side of the AUC dorm building closest to the Academic Building. A sense of unease brewed as a crowd of passersby gathered. In red capitalised text, a striking portion stated: “FUCK AUC”.
At the time of publication, The Herring does not know the identity of the individual who wrote this message, but details in the message suggest that the author is likely a former AUC student. The individual expresses personal, emotional sentiments regarding the sensitive topics of suicide and mental health; in doing so, the graffiti condemns how members of the AUC administration approach mental health issues within the community.
Adel El-Sabagh, caretaker of the dorms, explains that he walked to the green UvA dorm building early Tuesday morning and was sure that the message had not been painted yet. It was some time later when he was returning to his office that he saw the red text, leading him to believe that the message was written between 9:00 and 11:00. “I was in shock and I’m still in shock,” he says. El-Sabagh then made arrangements for the building to be cleaned and, by 12:30, there was no trace left of the angry words.
El-Sabagh admits that he did not have time to read the entire message, but spoke with several students about it afterwards. He understands the gravity of the message and feels it is necessary to share that “I am here for you all and you are not alone,” emphasising that “we are one community.”
Despite the message being printed for only a few hours, many students became aware of it as images swiftly circulated in AUC group chats. The Herring spoke to several first-year students about how they felt as it was merely their second official day at AUC.
Jonas Rinkevičius, one such first-year, was surprised to see this happening so soon after joining AUC. Nonetheless, he believes the message should be spread as it highlights an important issue: “[The graffiti was] maybe not the best approach, but, still, it’s good that it was addressed.”
Amelia Sokolovska, another first-year student, felt similarly. The incident was particularly unexpected to Sokolovska as she was provided with many resources centred upon mental health during Introduction Week. Hence, she finds it “a bit overwhelming to know that it doesn’t work for everyone”.
Indeed, the day after, AUC’s well-being team presented the available mental health resources to the incoming first-year students. During the event, Peer Support called the criticisms raised in the message an “institutional issue”.
Several first-year students noticed that present members of the AUC administration were hesitant to discuss the message of the previous day. Student life officer Lisa van Berkel only briefly touched on it after Peer Support had discussed the topic.
An official AUC response to the incident has not been communicated by the time of publication.
If you are the person who wrote the message on the wall, please feel free to get in touch with us. We would be interested in hearing a more detailed account of your opinion on the issue. Confidentiality is of course guaranteed.