WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WVEC) -- Officials at the College of William & Mary are investigating after someone defaced a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

The vandal(s) used red paint -- apparently to signify blood -- on the hands of the statue. The words "slave owner" was written on the brick pavement surrounding the statue. ‘

"It’s the fact that the issues are still prevalent now, racial issues are like one of the biggest issues around,” explained freshman student Salem Ergeti

Students say they don't agree with vandalizing the statue, but they understand why someone did what they did.

"I think slavery tends to be put in this box just like a story, but it’s a reality. It’s happened and a lot of people are angry about it,” Ergeti said.

Professor Jonathan Glasser also feels this starts a conversation. He said, "I think talking is powerful, and I think this is powerful."

Students say they hope this act opens up a door sparks a conversation about the past about slavery and how to move forward into the future.

School spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan wrote in an email:

"While William & Mary is a place where we encourage civil discourse about challenging topics, including those about the university’s own history with respect to slavery, it is not acceptable to deface property to express an opinion."

Seurattan said the statue of Jefferson, who attended the college, is made of bronze. The school currently is figuring out the best way to remove the paint without damaging the statue.