Jewish Student Bemoans Rutgers Response to Swastika on Apartment Ceiling
A Jewish Rutgers University (RU) student expressed dissatisfaction on Wednesday with how the school treated her complaint after she arrived home last month to find a swastika taped on the ceiling of her campus apartment.
“I’m pretty upset with the way Rutgers handled the situation,” psychology major Sara Rosen said in a draft of a letter she intends to send to the school newspaper, The Daily Targum, and which she posted on Facebook next to a photo of the swastika in question.
Rosen said she found the offensive symbol on Saturday, Jan. 15, upon returning to her flat after a workout. She immediately called 911, RU police and then her parents.
One of Rosen’s roommates, a School of Engineering senior, admitted to pasting the swastika on the ceiling, declaring it the result of a “sudden impulse of ‘altruistic’ intent” — as a display of his Buddhist faith.
“He asserted that the symbol was meant as an act of friendly greeting,” Rosen said. “He noted Buddhist practitioners commonly used it as such. And its orientation was not exactly as the Nazis reiterated it. After all, he knew I was Jewish. Subsequently, he obstinately refused to take it down even when asked to by the housing representatives.”
Rosen — from Edison, NJ — claimed RU police “chided” her for calling 911 and “ultimately declared that this issue was not their domain.”
She said that in the “ensuing weeks” she attended a “carousel of meetings” with conduct reps and campus and student deans, but is unhappy with how the university took control of the situation. She wrote: “Many who hear my story become outraged. But, RU reps seemed to indicate that the whole ordeal was a good time to reflect and quietly use as a learning experience. Feigned empathy, I felt.”
A university spokesperson said RUPD officers conducted an investigation of the incident by interviewing Rosen, her roommates and other witnesses, according to The Daily Targum. The University said in a statement that after an “extensive investigation,” the case was handled by the Office of Student Conduct and adjudicated. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office then reviewed the case and determined “there was not probable cause to charge the suspect with a bias crime.”
The Office of Student Conduct conducted a trial and decided that Rosen’s roommate should be put in temporary housing on campus, but following a judicial review, he was removed from university housing. Rosen said she was put in temporary housing for students with safety concerns, after spending a week at her family home. She is calling on the university to take stronger action.
“This isn’t ok, this can’t be brushed under the table. It felt like I was not being taken seriously enough (by the Office of Student Conduct),” she said. Rosen’s father, an RU alum, added that unlike Rutgers, other universities have “acted swiftly and decisively” in the face of such events.
“They have not discriminated as to whether the Nazi emblem points clockwise or counterclockwise. These kind of acts are not the equivalent to simple name calling, sticks and stones, not so much,” he said. “Acting out of this nature should not be tolerated. Incidents like this… whether ‘slips of the paint brush’ or ‘altruistic’ greetings penned by misguided youth should not be swept under the carpet of university bureaucracy. Rutgers needs to shout loud and shout often, that it will not tolerate these thinly disguised messages/symbols of hate and intimidation. Period. ”