The Thomas Jefferson statue on the College of William and Mary's campus was defaced over the weekend, college officials said.
The bronze statue, tucked away between two academic buildings off the campus' Sunken Garden, honors one of the college's most famous alumni and the country's third president.
But Jefferson also owned a number of slaves at his Monticello home, which the vandalism seems to be pointing to.
Red paint is visible across both of the statue's knuckles, and "slave owner" is spray painted in red on the brick at its feet.
College spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan said the William and Mary Police Department is investigating the incident. She said they didn't know whether the vandal was a student.
"Our point here has been, William and Mary is a place where we encourage civil discourse about challenging topics, including those about the university’s own history with respect to slavery," Seurattan said. "It is not acceptable to deface property to express an opinion."
Seurattan said the paint is more permanent, and therefore more damaging, than the last time someone took issue with the statue. In November 2015, it was covered in sticky notes calling out Jefferson's slave-holding past and his suspicious relationship with a slave named Sally Hemings.
“At this point, that statue is bronze, so we’re actually consulting with a metal conservator to see how we can get the paint off it,” Seurattan said. "I’m not aware of anything we haven’t been able to fix. It is a statue. It is artwork made of bronze. It’s going to have to be carefully done.”
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.