Jewish students, UB administration respond after anti-Semitic slurs found on bathroom stall
UPD investigating slurs found in Capen Hall bathroom
University Police is investigating anti-Semitic slurs written on a men’s restroom stall in Capen Hall that were reported on March 23.
The remarks have been removed and UPD believes it was an isolated incident, according to Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Sticht.
UPD has however increased patrols near the Hillel of Buffalo, the on-campus Jewish organization located in The Commons, as a precaution. They also patrolled campus locations where students were celebrating Purim, a Jewish holiday, last week.
The slurs, which threatened violence against Jewish people and used a derogatory slur, have shocked and saddened some Jewish students and the UB administration.
“I’ve never seen any form of anti-Semitism like that before,” said Andrew Meyer, president of the Jewish Student Union (JSU). “I’ve seen swastikas in the past, but that is nothing compared to this.”
Meyer said the slur written in the stall is “the most horrific and derogatory term” used against Jewish people.
UB spokesperson John Della Contrada said racist and discriminatory behaviors or conducts have no place at UB and will not be tolerated.
“When acts motivated by hatred or discrimination occur, the university will respond promptly to protect the safety and well-being of the entire university community,” Della Contrada said in an email. “Diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are strongly held values of our university. We are committed to upholding these values at all times.”
And Teresa Miller, vice provost for Equity, Diversion and Inclusion, said she is saddened and disappointed by the remarks, but, like UPD, believes this is an isolated incident with “infrequent occurrence that does not threaten the safety of Jewish students on campus.” She said nevertheless, it harms the inclusive, equitable community, which is valued at UB.
Last November the words “Gay Only,” “White” and “Black is Cool” were found in three different locations in Slee Hall. UB president Tripathi responded by issuing an open letter to UB Reporter, in which he said he was disappointed with the “intolerant language.”
Meyer said he is satisfied with how the university has handled this situation at this point, but would be disappointed if Tripathi did not also issue an open letter regarding the anti-Semitic slurs.
Logan Woodard, JSU vice president and social intern for Hillel of Buffalo, said while a formal police investigation is appropriate, people need to know “there isn’t space for that here at UB, whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism and hatred in general.”
Although the slurs written in the stall were just reported to UPD last week, the slurs appear to have been there for at least two weeks prior, according to photos sent to The Spectrum.
Eric Mandel, JSU communications and outreach coordinator, said the slurs were unsettling and he finds the possibility that some students may have seen and ignored the slurs to be concerning.
Meyer said students have to “make people aware that any form of anti-Semitism or racism is not OK and they must report anything they see immediately.” He said students should not be bystanders when events like these occur. He encourages students to report any offensive language intended to discriminate against students on campus.
Meyer said JSU can hold programs that focus on discrimination toward Jewish students on college campuses and what to do when events like these occur.
Meyer has also met with Student Life and Student Association President Minahil Khan about the incident. Khan said SA as a whole is working with UPD and Student Life in “any way that they might need” and that she is in full support of JSU.
Meyer feels anti-Semitism on all college campuses is on the rise.
The University of California recently became the first public university system to adopt a statement condemning anti-Semitic since campaigns for boycotting Israel have occurred on college campuses throughout the country.
Meyer said he has dealt with anti-Semitism throughout his life. In middle school, students would throw coins at him and make fun of his nose, he said.
Dan Metchnik, director of Hillel for Buffalo, said the incident is “very disturbing” and that it doesn’t represent the values of UB. He said it’s important to inform students, administration and faculty that education is the best tool they have against discrimination.
“We are fighting against all hatred – whether its Jews or Muslims or Christians or whoever it is, it’s unacceptable,” he said.
Miller said she hopes all members of the UB community respond to this incident by working to ensure that the university continues to be welcoming, respectful and inclusive of others.
Ashley Inkumsah is a news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org