Crime

WWU student accused of racist graffiti expelled from school and trespassed from campus

The 20-year-old man charged with putting racist vandalism and hate-filled slurs on doors of a Western Washington University residence hall has been expelled from school and trespassed from the Bellingham campus.
The 20-year-old man charged with putting racist vandalism and hate-filled slurs on doors of a Western Washington University residence hall has been expelled from school and trespassed from the Bellingham campus. The Bellingham Herald file

The 20-year-old man charged with racist vandalism and writing hate-filled slurs on doors of a Western Washington University residence hall and around campus has been expelled from school and trespassed from the Bellingham campus.

According to a WWU release Tuesday, Shayne Robert Merwin of Gold Bar has been permanently removed from campus and will not be allowed to re-enroll — the most significant discipline the university can levy through the student conduct process.

Merwin pleaded not guilty after being charged with second-degree burglary and malicious harassment in Whatcom County Superior Court Friday and is tentatively scheduled to face a jury trial beginning Feb. 19. He still has the option to appeal the WWU decision, the release said. His appeal would be considered by the university appeals board.

On Nov. 18, students at WWU reported racist graffiti at Nash Residence Hall at 689 High St. A University police officer spoke with a man who said he overheard Merwin talking about finding an electronic key and using a marker to deface property with racial slurs and threats of sexual violence, according to court records.

One woman said she, Merwin, another man and another woman entered Nash Hall using a found key. The woman told police she then saw Merwin use a marker to write on boards and name tags along the hall, as well as overheard him use racial slurs. The other woman also said she saw Merwin write things on the walls, but wasn’t aware of what was actually written, records state.

None of the four had permission to enter the residence hall.

Nine name tags on residents’ rooms on four floors were defaced. The following day, a racial epithet was found on the Wright’s Triangle sculpture near the Ross Engineering Building and a poster in front of Arntzen Hall was defaced with racist language. An additional racist word was found on a pillar at Fairhaven College.

All of the vandalism targeted the African-American, Latino, Japanese and LGBTQ+ communities, and has since been removed. Damage was estimated to be approximately $150, according to court records.

During an interview with University police on Nov. 25, Merwin allegedly admitted to entering the residence hall and claimed responsibility for the graffiti, records show.

One of the students who had their nameplate defaced with slurs against Japanese people said she was concerned she may have been targeted because of her Japanese heritage. “I saw it and felt scared,” she told police, records state.

Merwin was previously presented with the Gold Bar Mayor’s Youth Achievement Award for community service in 2017, according to a city press release.

On Dec. 3, around 200 students held a six-hour sit-in at WWU President Sabah Randhawa’s office to protest how the university handled Merwin’s arrest.

After his arrest, Merwin was no longer allowed at any university housing or dining halls, but was still allowed to attend classes, though WWU spokesperson Paul Cocke said Merwin had decided not to be on campus for the rest of the fall quarter. On Dec. 4, Randhawa sent a note out to the campus community saying that he heard the concerns of students of color and marginalized identities.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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