Father of Student Sentenced for Campus Vandalism

Frank Petronio, a Spencerport, NY photographer and father of a Dickinson student, received a $500 fine, one year of probation and mandatory cultural sensitivity training in late February after he pled guilty to ethnic intimidation for placing offensive stickers on the Asbell Center for Jewish Life and the Weiss Center for the Arts at Dickinson.  

Petronio was ordered to stay away from campus unless granted permission by the college. 

President John E. Jones III said of the sentencing, “It does bring closure in the respect that we found the guy that did it and he pled guilty to a misdemeanor, which is a serious crime.” He added, “People of Mr. Petronio’s type are truly worrisome because they believe that the laws are for other people.”  

Jones, a former federal judge, said, “There are myriad factors that go into sentencing. The important thing is that he pled guilty.” 

According to PennLive, at his hearing on Feb. 21, Petronio appeared both ashamed of his actions and frustrated at the fallout from the incident. Since he was arrested, he said, his home was raided by FBI agents, his wife divorced him and he has become estranged from his daughter.   

Miryam Schwitzer ’25, an engagement intern at the Asbell Center and member of the Dickinson Hillel board, was with the group that found Petronio’s offensive stickers on the Asbell Center door. She said, “I’ve dealt with other anti-Semitic stuff…it was just like, oh this again.” 

Schwitzer appreciated the response of the Dickinson administration and Department of Public Safety, saying “it was taken care of very seriously.” Among other security measures, a Dickinson ID is now required to access the Asbell Center.  

Even directly after the antisemitic act, Schwitzer said, “I don’t think there was really anyone who felt unsafe about it.” She attributes this to the college’s strong Jewish community. “It’s very close-knit,” she said, “if people had questions, they knew who to come to.” 

Schwitzer was more disturbed by the vandalism targeting an exhibit of Black artists at the Weiss Center, where Petronio placed stickers reading “It’s OK to be White” on promotional materials for the “Horace Pippin: Race and War” exhibit. “To me, that first one is so much more serious,” she said. “To have that message left out of the story when it adds to probably why it happened in the first place, is upsetting.” 

As for Petronio’s sentencing, Schwitzer took a different approach than Jones, who “refused to consent to a program that might have left him without a criminal record,” or Yvette Davis, Director of the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity, who told The Dickinsonian in December, “You’re not going to be able to rehabilitate this man’s self-hatred and hatred for other human beings.” 

Schwitzer cited the Jewish principle of “teshuva” or repentance, which she finds useful in this case. “I think there’s always a second chance,” Schwitzer said, “It’s never too late to learn…and hopefully that happens.” Even if Petronio shows remorse, however, “I don’t think it’s gonna take back any of the hurt,” she said. “I think it’s just a way of moving forward.”