A Fairfield University plaque dedicated to a 17th century African missionary was defaced with racist and anti-Semitic words and symbols at a campus dormitory last week.

The plaque, dedicated to St. Peter Claver, hangs on the second floor of Claver Hall.

Claver was a Spanish Jesuit who devoted his life to helping hundreds of thousands of slaves in the port of Cartagena, Colombia, as they arrived on ships from Africa. He is known as the patron saint of slaves.

In a letter to students and staff, Dean of Students Karen Donoghue said the university is working to identify the vandals in the incident, which took place Tuesday of last week.

"The matter remains under investigation and we have no reason to believe at this time that the acts were anything more than thoughtless, cowardly, juvenile, and ignorant acts," she wrote. "We are hopeful that the responsible individual(s) will be identified or better still, come forward voluntarily ... Fairfield University values and welcomes diversity, and individuals who choose to use hateful, racist, and anti-Semitic language and symbols have clearly demonstrated that they do not belong here."

The university is asking any individuals who have information about the vandalism to report directly to the Office of the Dean of Students or the Department of Public Safety.