Monday, September 21, 2015

Swastikas on Campus

July 2014

University of Oregon -- Swastikas were discovered on mailboxes facing a Jewish fraternity house.
University of Oregon

October 2014

Emory University -- The morning after Yom Kippur, a Jewish fraternity was tagged with swastikas, among other graffiti on a street nearby.  Two additional swastikas were discovered on the campus a few days later. 

Emory University
Yale University -- Three swastikas were drawn in chalk outside a freshman dormitory.

Emerson College -- A rash of swastikas were posted on bulletin boards and every laundry room doorway in a campus residence hall. The word "heil" also was posted.  A student was said later to be responsible for at least some of acts.

January 2015

University of California, Davis -- Between 3 a.m and 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, a Jewish fraternity house entry and back wall were defaced with swastikas. Around the same time, a janitor found the words, "grout out the Jews" etched into a wall in a campus restroom.

University of California, Davis

February 2015

University of California, Berkeley -- A graffiti swastika was found on a campus building.  
     Less than a month later a restroom was tagged with this message:  "Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber."
     Later, a Jewish member of the student government told an interviewer, “A lot of students find swastikas and come to me.  On dorms, on bathroom stalls, just random places on campus.”

Cleveland State University – Two swastikas were found on the fourth floor of the university’s Main Classroom building. 

March 2015

Vanderbilt University  -- Two swastikas were spray-painted in the elevator of the Jewish fraternity.

John Jay College, CUNY, Manhattan -- Swastikas were scrawled in bathrooms and in a classroom.

State University of New York, Purchase -- Multiple swastikas were painted in a dorm room and also on doors and a stairwell.  

Brooklyn College -- The message, "Jews -- root of all evil," was found scratched on the wall of a men’s bathroom stall in the campus library.
Tufts University -- Swastikas were found painted on several cars parked near a fraternity house on campus. 
        The previous April, nearly two dozen swastikas were painted on sites around campus and nearby Medford on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
        Last December police were investigating “several” swastikas painted on the south side of a campus building.

Fairleigh Dickinson University -- A Jewish flag was found torn on campus. A faculty member wrote, “Just to add to the overall picture of bias crimes on campus, last week, I found a swastika drawn on the bulletin board outside my office in Bancroft Hall—yet again.”

April 2015

Framingham State University – A swastika was keyed into a student's car in a campus parking lot. Earlier, in December 2014, a swastika was carved into the door of a student's dorm room.  

University of Missouri – Two consecutive incidents were reported.  A swastika, the Illuminati symbol, and the word “heil” were drawn in ash on a wall.  The next day, another swastika and the words “You’ve been warned” were discovered in the same area.  Ten days later, a freshman student (who lived in the Mark Twain residence hall, of all places) was arrested and charged.

Northwestern University  – A swastika was found in the men’s fourth-floor restroom at University Library. The graffito was written in pencil and the police were able to remove it. University police also found a swastika drawn in pencil in a third-floor study room.and a Star of David drawn in ink pen on the walls of a different third-floor study room. Police said the last image might have previously been a swastika.

Stanford University –  Spray-painted swastikas and anarchy symbols were found at a house for students transitioning out of dorm life, at the Jewish fraternity house and at an Italian-language and culture-focused academic house, according to the university.
     Several months later, a 19-year-old man was arrested for the acts.  He lived nearby but did not attend the university.  
     "We are unable to speculate on a motive," said a police spokesman.

Stanford University

June 2015

Northwestern University -- Construction workers found anti-Semitic and racist graffiti at the construction site of the new Kellogg School of Management building. 
     Ten days later, on the day of commencement ceremonies, a security team found a swastika and another Nazi symbol drawn in mud on a campus window.  

I'm pretty sure these are not the only instances of swastikas on campus.  Self-preserving college administrations have no incentive to broadcast these things widely.  My guess is many more such outbreaks are cleaned up quietly and as fast as possible.

University of California

The school's board of regents has been considering a new policy rejecting all manner of "intolerance" on all campuses.  At a recent meeting, a number of commenters showed up not to protest the speech code -- which is ill-considered and counter to the First Amendment -- but to emphasize that it was important to make sure it applied to anti-Semitic speech.

One of the regents, Richard Blum, said he and his wife, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, believe that students who behave in racist, anti-Semitic or other biased ways should face penalties such as suspension or expulsion. If the university did not adopt strong enough rules, he said, Feinstein would publicly criticize UC.  Maybe neither Blum nor Feinstein has read the First Amendment either.

An activist said later that SJP members have faced discrimination for speaking their minds about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.  She fretted that such a policy might "silence one side of an important discussion.”  I'm happy to defend Palestinian activists against discrimination, but if her complaint is that they are confronted by people who want to argue with their ideas, then she too is wrong.

Free Speech

For 15 years now, several campus groups have agitated against Zionism.  They go by names like the Society for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Boycott-Divest-Sanction (of Israel, only Israel).  After thousands of student government votes, these groups have convinced many to demand that university foundations stop investing not just in Israeli securities but in the stocks of companies that do business in Israel.  The American Studies Association voted against participating in academic conferences in Israel.  A national Hispanic studies group voted unanimously a couple months ago for the same thing. 

There have been many Palestinian initiatives.  Several years ago, SJP members armed with fake rifles stood at Berkeley's Sather Gate, inquired whether entering students were Jews and tried to prevent those who were Jews from going onto the campus.  The point was to show Jews how Palestinians felt in Israel.  It was crude and smelled like anti-Semitism, but it was speech. 

Earlier this year, Jewish candidates for student government positions were challenged based on their religion at two good universities, Stanford and UCLA.  The students raising objections had to be reminded by faculty members that, in fact, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the American Constitution.   You would think that students at such schools would know better, but, again, it was speech and the First Amendment reigned.

In my college years, before SJP developed its broad influence, a number of anti-Semitic protesters heckled students from the porch of the student union -- again, free speech -- but I never saw a swastika spray-painted on a campus facility.


I'm pretty sure the SJP and BDS groups would say they oppose Israel's policies but not Jews per se, and I imagine they think they mean it. 

But the flowering of swastikas etched and spray-painted at campuses across the country makes me suspicious.

A swastika is not associated with Zionism or Palestinian rights.  It is associated with the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.  

An anonymously drawn swastika is not exactly free speech.  It is cowardly speech, low speech.  It is anti-Semitism that is not brave enough to speak its name or to face the scorn it merits.  Unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise.

If college leaders think that shutting down "intolerant" discussions will reduce anti-Semitism on campus, they are wrong.  It will drive anti-Semitism further underground.  There will be more and more swastikas and, eventually, attacks on Jewish students.


College students are often idealistic and want to act on high-minded goals.  The last few years have been hard ones for many groups, especially religious groups, around the world.  

The Chinese government has suppressed Uighurs and Tibetans.  Hong Kong students' protest last year of Chinese abrogation of free election standards went on for weeks with little support from other countries. 

ISIS has broadcast public executions of Christians and aid workers; it has thrown gay men off the tops of tall buildings; it flagrantly operates a market in which captured women are sold as sex slaves.  Yazidis have been targeted for death.  Chemical weapons have been used against various Syrian resistance fighters and their families.

Boko Haram (whose name means opposition to western education) has ravaged communities in northeastern Nigeria, killing many people and torching entire towns.

Where are the campus critiques of these issues?  Where are the calls for action?   

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