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February 21, 2016 7:00 am

Jewish Student Bemoans Rutgers Response to Swastika on Apartment Ceiling

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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The swastika Sara Rosen found on the ceiling of her apartment. The Jewish student said she is upset with the way the school "handled the situation." Photo: Facebook.

The swastika Sara Rosen found on the ceiling of her apartment. The Jewish student said she is upset with the way the school “handled the situation.” Photo: Facebook.

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.

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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. ”

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  • Roxanne Chester

    Gee, an engineering student who is a complete and utter ahole. What a shock.

  • Juan Rodriguez

    Precious little snowflakes. ;)❄️❄️❄️❄️

    They deal with adversity so well. ?

    • Dan

      She IS dealing with adversity well. She’s not throwing a tantrum, she’s following exactly the steps a reasonable person would when confronted with discrimination. You are an incredibly bad troll.

  • Jill Tanenbaum

    I would suggest that she apply to transfer another school. The pathetic response from the university would not pacify me. Take your money elsewhere. Leave Rutgers. Send a message that this is totally unacceptable.

  • Marie K

    this is a sauwastika
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauwastika
    While the Jewish feeling is certainly understood it is also true that the Nazi swastika is not the only use of the symbol, and the two symbols are somewhat different.
    That said unless the other student lived under a stone and never had a history class the symbol should have been discussed before the possibility of putting it on the ceiling ever came up.

  • Alan Bronkovitz

    Such a minor misunderstanding.
    It seems clear that the student who put up this sign meant no harm. This symbol was co opted by the Nazis, but they did not own it then, and do not own it now.

    I think that the person who put this up needs some sensitivity training and education. -And so do the Rosens. Not everyone sees the world from your perspective.
    In my opinion, the university handled this properly. This is a simple issue of cultural misunderstanding. This outrage is misplaced. Is every Buddhist an anti-Semite? I guess for the Rosen family, the answer to that question is yes. So everyone with an axe to grind and a chip on their shoulder can trot out their feigned outrage.

  • The response of the administration of Rutgers University to this blatantly anti-Semitic attack by a “SE Asian” against a Jew, is unacceptable. The perpetrator of this hate crime who entered the Jewish student’s dorm room to post the swastika on the ceiling should be kicked out of school immediately, and the school should take criminal action against the perpetrator. Anything less is sending a message that this criminal behavior will be tolerated and that it is acceptable to harass Jews for being Jewish. Jewish alumnae should immediately rescind donations and refuse to give further donations until Rutgers takes appropriate academic and legal action against the perpetrator of this hate crime against Jews.

  • Peter C

    This doesn’t pass the smell test.

    The fact that a student could place a swastika in a dorm room in the United States and then claim benevolent motivation for it as the reason is bull. Even if the Buddhist engineering student was Asian from a country with a Buddhist tradition (the article doesn’t say) it’s unlikely they could be unaware of the highly charged meaning of the swastika in the West based on relatively recent European history, and the pain it can cause. If it was a student raised in the States of whatever background or religion, it’s even more impossible that he could be unaware of the implications of placing a swastika in a dorm room.

    I probably would have handled it differently, starting with immediately ripping down the symbol, and maybe spray-painting their favorite poster with an American Flag (or star of David) or something similar. Let the other guy take action, and take it to the university disciplinary body, if they dared. I’m not advocating that as the way to go because it’s destruction of property, but it’s what I probably would have done in that situation. She should not try that.

    If I had to advise Sara Rosen, though, I would have suggested she tear down the symbol, and leave it lying very prominently on top of the trash in the dorm room, and not say anything about it to her roommate at all, just like the whole incident never happened, and wait for them to respond (or not). After all, a real Buddhist would just have let it go at that point, and not made any waves at all.

    The fact that this guy refused to take down the swastika, even when the housing office asked him to, is proof that the “Buddhist welcome symbol” excuse was a crock, and the guy is an antisemite and a bully. I don’t believe for a second that he is a Buddhist.

    The guy should be disciplined, maybe with some kind of community service or sensitivity training thing, or maybe suspended for a semester, depending what the penalties are for hate crimes at Rutgers.

  • David S. Levin

    It does not matter what the symbol may represent in SE Asia, it is clear that throughout the US and Europe it is associated only with the Holocaust and the Nazi extermination of millions of innocent people because of their religion or their sexual orientation. It is true that the American Indians also used the symbol many years before the Nazis yet no one today associates that symbol today with the American Indians. The offending student needed to remove the offending symbol from the ceiling of the housing if it offended even one person. His answer indicated that his symbol had no real meaning for him other than to aggravate a sensitive situation. It certainly did not mean to him a sign of welcome and peace to the Jewish girl in this story. The University was correct to remove him from the housing but he should also have been taught why his symbol could not possibly be a welcome symbol to everyone an he should have willingly removed it. His lack of sensitivity is punishable.

  • Ellen north

    Having just returned from se Asia I can say I
    Was shocked to see swastika design in areas till
    It was explained to me that it had different meaning from the one we associate with it

  • Joan Marcus

    I am a Douglas alumna.
    This is the second time in two years that I have communicated with both Rutgers and Douglass, and Douglass classmates, about the atrocius response of the university to a clearly antisemetic incident on campus.
    I indicated at that time that I would no longer make donations to the Douglass until I heard of an acceptable, responsible response to incidents such as this. I suggested this response to other classmates.
    I have had no personal response from the university.

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