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The public has yet to set foot in the University of Montana's new Payne Family Native American Center, but already the school is having to make repairs to the building - one month before its dedication - because of vandalism.

Late on Tuesday or early Wednesday, someone threw a rock into the window of a door on the northeast side of the building.

The incident led UM President George Dennison on Thursday to e-mail the entire campus asking people to report destructive behavior to campus authorities.

"I find this behavior baffling," wrote Dennison. "Why would anyone - whether a member of the campus community or not - deliberately deface such a wonderful facility with symbolic importance to the campus and surrounding communities?"

The rock broke the outside glass pane, but didn't go through the window. The incident was reported to campus police around 10:58 a.m. Wednesday, said Public Safety director Jim Lemcke.

Law enforcement has no motive or suspects at this time. Nothing has led police to believe it's anything more than criminal mischief, which is the most common crime on the UM campus, Lemcke said. There have been 42 reports of vandalism since September.

"The most common thing we see around here is a person with a beverage or two under their belt breaking something," he said.

Yet, the vandalism to the new Native American Center compelled Dennison to reach out for assistance in helping police combat such criminal behavior. It's a request similar to one Dennison made earlier this fall. In past years, when Jewish students erected a sukkah - a three-sided hut - to celebrate the weeklong holiday of Sukkot, it had been vandalized. Dennison appealed to the campus then, as he did now, to keep a watchful eye and report "any activities that appear to threaten the grounds, facilities, and campus members."

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"We have a campus environment and community spirit that has no tolerance for socially destructive behavior," according to the e-mail. "Let us rally once again and insist upon respect for others and for our community."

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

 

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