Swastikas drawn on campus prompt meeting by Bias Response Team

The Bias Response Team met the week before spring break following reports of swastikas being drawn in two locations on campus.

On March 1, a swastika was reported being scratched into the back of a men’s bathroom stall according to reports published in the crime log. On March 8, another swastika was seen on a bulletin board in a residence hall. It was taken down soon after being reported, Director of Public Safety Jeffrey Troxell said.

According to Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio, the incidents are something that the college is “keeping a very close eye on.” They are under investigation by public safety, but no one has yet been charged with a crime.

The crimes were reported as criminal mischief, Troxell said, because with no intended victim, public safety is not able to classify it as bias.

“You can’t prove bias unless you find out who did it and the intended victim,” Troxell said. “When you have no witnesses, we’re kind of stuck with ‘who did this?’”

Despite this, the Bias Response Team, a group designed to respond to intolerant acts on campus, held a meeting with members of Hillel, the Jewish group on campus, to discuss the incidents.

“If specific students or groups have been targeted or affected, I want them to know that the campus does care,” chair of the team Chaplain Alex Hendrickson said.

“Someone, somewhere feels [the incident] is an issue of intolerance,” she added. “This is not a legal definition, it’s just someone has felt that they experienced an issue of bias and that can be really broad.”

Although the meeting between the members of Hillel and the Bias Response Team is kept confidential, the advisor to Hillel, professor Ethan Berkove, said that he believes anonymously posting hateful things is cowardly behavior.

“It’s one thing to stand up and say something you believe,” he said. “It’s another thing to post anonymously.”  

“There’s no place for that here,” President of the Hillel Society Miriam Swartz ‘18 said. “That doesn’t belong on campus.”

This isn’t the first time incidents like this one have happened on campus. Berkove said that “every couple of years, there are instances of hate speech or other related activities you find on campus.”

But the incidents still warrant response from the school, Diorio said.

“These aren’t things that fall under the venue of free speech for us,” Diorio said. “These are harassment and ethnic intimidation issues that we don’t tolerate.”

Berkove said that there is no way the Bias Response Team can know how prevalent the incidences of bias are unless students who have witnessed the acts come forward.

Hendrickson agreed with that point and stressed the importance of reporting bias instances through their webpage.

“If you go to the Bias Response Team page, then there this a link to a Qualtric survey [where] people can anonymously report things,” she said.

For Swartz, the swastika incidents are simply another reminder on the importance of remembrance.

“I think it’s a reminder on why Holocaust Remembrance week needs to happen and why we need to talk about these things,” she said.

“It is an unfortunate sign of our times that even as our country becomes more diverse, people seem to becoming more intolerant,” Diorio said.

Hendrickson added that the campus needs to change as a whole, not just individuals.

“I think the [Bias Response Team] is necessary, but what’s going to be effective in the long term is changing the campus culture,” Hendrickson said.

 

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