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June 6, 2016 2:56 pm

Headless Doll Calling for ‘Death to All Jews’ Among Spate of Antisemitic Incidents at Western Washington University

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Jewish students at Western Washington University were the target of several antisemitic incidents during the 2016 winter quarter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish students at Western Washington University were the target of several antisemitic incidents during the 2016 winter quarter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A headless doll bearing a note reading “Death to all Jews” was among a series of antisemitic incidents experienced by Jewish students over the winter months at Western Washington University (WWU), prompting the school’s administration to form a special task force to combat the phenomenon, WWU’s official student newspaper The Western Front reported.

According to the report, four known antisemitic incidents took place on campus during the recently completed winter quarter. “It is unusual in my office that we would get four consecutive situations so close together,” said Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, head of the Equal Opportunity Office (EOO) and a member of the task force. Information regarding the incidents were obtained through public records requests of EOO reports. 

The first instance of antisemitism occurred on January 31, 2016, when a Jewish student living in the Fairhaven residential complex reported that a swastika and racial slurs had been written on a whiteboard attached to his door. Recognizing the perpetrator, the student confronted him and forced him to apologize. In response, school officials held a meeting at the residence hall on February 11, where the Jewish student was accused by other students of being too sensitive. One stated that the swastika was “a peace symbol in some cultures,”  the Jewish student recounted.

Three days after the meeting, another Fairhaven resident reported that a swastika had been drawn next to his name on a sign-up sheet posted on the door of the resident director. Following an investigation, a student admitted to drawing the Nazi symbol, but claimed he had drawn it as a joke. The targeted student dropped the matter because he did not want to escalate the situation by having someone kicked out of campus housing, according to an EOO report.

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Then, on the night of February 2, a resident adviser patrolling the Ridgeway Beta housing complex found a headless porcelain doll with an attached antisemitic note. According to an EOO report, following questioning by the Ridgeway resident director, a student admitted to placing the doll and note on his suite-mate’s door. The student said the note was written by a friend from high school and he “thought this would be a prank.”

Following these three incidents, the EOO was prompted to launch an investigation into a fourth matter, after a student enrolled in the Fairhaven College World Issues Forum filed a complaint on February 23 accusing senior instructor Shirley Osterhaus of blatant bias against Jews and Israel and refusing to offer alternative pro-Israel viewpoints for consideration. According to the complaint, a guest speaker at the Forum and former Black Panther member allegedly made antisemitic remarks during his presentation, titled “The Stark Similarities between the Black and Palestinian Struggle for Human Rights.”

“I make clear distinctions whenever I talk about this issue, between what the Israeli military and government is doing, and Jewish people,” Osterhaus told the Western Front. “It’s disturbing to be brought with those allegations. It creates an environment on campus that doesn’t let faculty be as free, and talk truth to powers that are oppressive.”

The EOO inquiry — which included interviewing Osterhaus and reviewing videos of all pro-Palestinian lecturers to the class over the last five years — concluded that “the speakers did not place blame nor make discriminatory remarks against Jewish people.” It added that students should be prepared, as part of their academic career, to be exposed to opinions they may find personally offensive.

The three confirmed cases of antisemitism at WWU prompted President Bruce Shepard to create a special task force aimed at addressing what appears to be a growing issue on campus. In an April 12 campus-wide email, Shepard wrote that the school administration is aware of campus climate issues and has made progress in addressing concerns. “That progress is a critically important and shared responsibility. Progress also requires that we be open and candid about challenges as they are encountered,” he wrote. The task force, according to Western Front, has met three times since its formation and will present its findings in a special report during the 2016 fall quarter at the earliest.

Bellingham, the city where WWU is located, is no stranger to antisemitic attacks. On May 8, hikers at a local state park discovered graffiti with the message, “IT’S TIME FOR OUR REVOLUTION,”  the Western Front reported. Alongside the message was a swastika and a symbol depicting the letters “NWF,” which is a possible reference to the white supremacist group, the Northwest Front.

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  • Kathi

    As Aaron said previously the statement by Osterhaus:

    “I make clear distinctions whenever I talk about this issue, between what the Israeli military and government is doing, and Jewish people,” Osterhaus told the Western Front. “It’s disturbing to be brought with those allegations. It creates an environment on campus that doesn’t let faculty be as free, and talk truth to powers that are oppressive.”

    talk truth to powers that ARE oppressive…

    It would seem the allegations are correct. Osterhaus is not stating her view as her opinion but as absolute fact and does not seem to want to allow students to be free, and talk truth to faculty that are oppressive.

  • Christy

    Western needs to take this far more seriously. Students who are caught terrorizing Jewish students should face serious consequences, no matter what. It should not even be left up to the victims to have to be put in the position of being the hated bad guy by having make the choice about whether or not to pursue it and demand the person/people responsible be penalized. That would not help them one bit. Imagine if the Jewish students pursued this and got students kicked out of their student housing. Would that help them be any more liked by other students? Especially when so many already think this is a big joke and they’re being too sensitive. It just needs to be a rule that if you are going to terrorize Jewish students, you are going to face serious consequences. That sends the message that this in no way will ever be tolerated. With a history of this happening on campus and it escalating, what’s next? All students deserve to feel safe on campus, they have a right to know they will not be discriminated against by staff and they have a right to know that if other students decide to do something like this that the people running the school will do everything within their power to protect the students and their rights. How can the Jewish students feel safe and feel free to express themselves with this going on. After a “death to all Jews” hate note with a “decapitated” doll, this sends the message that someone actually wants Jews killed and this may even be an actual threat on their lives. The people running Western should never be willing to bet their safety on this just “being a joke.” Come on Western, get your act together!!! My kids are all young now, but I would never send them to a university that allowed antisemitism to happen on campus, especially by staff members. This is just awful.

  • Max S.

    This isn’t a recent development. As a 2009 graduate of Western I personally experienced the antisemitism that Shirley Osterhaus and Barbara Rofkar promulgate in the schools curriculum, programming, and philosophy. It was at one of Ms. Osterhaus’ World Issues Forum events that o was called a “Dirty Jew”, shouted down from asking a question by audience members who were incited to to so by the speaker, and was referred to as “you people”. The forum and the campus are hardly a place for the free exchange of ideas and debate; rather, they serve to bolster a very antisemitic agenda by solely funding anti-israeli and anti-semetic speakers. Lets get real, the majority of those who attend the anti-israel events hosted on the schools dime are not students. In fact, they are all close friends of Osterhaus and Rofkar and belong to the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center. Osterhaus has a repeatedly abused her position as an instructor (mind you she has no advanced degree) by using her position to pay for speakers to come to Bellingham and speak at events hosted or promoted by Whatcom Peace and Justice…All on Western’s dime. Should we give Ms. Oesterhaus the benefit of the doubt, could she really be expanding students minds and thinking? Considering how every quarter since at least 2005, and likely farther back, Ms. Oesterhaus has included an anti-israel speaker in the Forum series I would say you have an established pattern. Add that to the fact that she has never invited a pro-israel speaker, I’d say she has no intention of expanding or challenging students minds. Finally, let us also touch on the fact that Ms. Osterhaus was fired from her last job at Lutheran Campus Ministries because she tried to place a “Wiccan” curse on students by desecrating the Lutheran student chapel with symbols drawn in holy oil. Apparently this was in retaliation for lutheran students removing baughs from a pine tree on the lutheran student center’s property; however, in her eyes, this was a desecration of her spirit tree that was host to mother natures invisible creatures.

    When I was a student I had to apply for a grant to bring a pro-Israel speaker to Westerns campus. When I signed up to reserve a room for the lecture, I was told that I would be violating the school’s club policy if I didn’t make it a panel of speakers that equally represented both anti- and pro-Israel speakers. Why is it that Ms. Osterhaus is an exception to this? The Jewish students on Westerns campus have been told to be less sensitive but let’s remember that the school has never shelled out a penny for viewpoints opposing Ms. Osterhaus’ agenda.

    • Eric Leibman

      Hi, Max! I graduated Fairhaven in 1985 and have been talking to Jack Herring, the Farhaven Dean, recently. It looks like we really rattled Western’s cage with this OEO complaint. Jack is looking for input and people to help make some positive changes for balance at this World Forum event. I suggest you call him. I think he would be very interested in hearing about your experiences.

  • David in Seatttle

    The perpetrators of these incidents should have been expelled at immediately.

  • nat cheiman

    This is the result of muslims being allowed into a christian country

    • David in Seatttle

      You are exactly the same as the perpetrators of the incidents documented in this article. Shame on you.

  • Aron

    “It creates an environment on campus that doesn’t let faculty be as free, and talk truth to powers that are oppressive.”

    ARE oppressive? That’s a statement of fact and quite telling, in contrast to for example “that faculty believe to be oppressive”.

    Additionally, the environment currently in existence in many campuses, created by this same faculty Osterhaus is worried about, is one where students with non-conforming ideas or those that go against the “liberal” and “progressive” stance, are not only not free to voice their opinions, but are intimidated and attacked if they try. Groupthink is not a good thing. Ever.

    “It added that students should be prepared, as part of their academic career, to be exposed to opinions they may find personally offensive.”

    And as a supposed place of learning, schools should be prepared to allow students to confront those opinions without fear of retribution or ridicule, especially from staff.

    The state of out institutions of “higher” learning is more than concerning… God help the next generation!

    • Kathi

      Well said.

  • I feel at times Christians and Muslims have the ancient antisemitic template in them if they behave like this in institutions of higher learning!When itt suits them they remember Swastika was “a peace symbol in some cultures!”Indeed it was, long before Hitler misused/abused it, it was a revered symbol inscribed on Hindu homes and temples, which you can see even now.It is a symbol drawn in front of homes using powdered rice! But Left-liberals abuse Hindus and Nazis/Fascists when they want pointing out these and the Khaki shorts worn by volunteers of the Hindu Nationalist social organisation, RSS during their physical exercises!
    The evasive/defensive opinion of the Varsity authorities, that the (Jewish)students should be prepared, as part of their academic career, to be exposed to opinions they may find personally offensive” is a stunner!

  • Jonah

    America is a lost cause for Jews. Israels liberal kinsfolk cannot survive without an anti semitic president. They have Obama with Valerie at the wheel and may have the clintons in the very near future with Humus at the wheel. Humus will be cutting all the deals while the clintons will be raking in the Islamic windfall at the foundation. In the mean time hate crime legislation will be put in place making Jews FairPlay for any nut case that thinks they should die. It is time for Israel to find another friend a big brother of sorts who is not attempting to put a knife in their back while approaching them with a John Kerry smile.

  • Eve Laing

    I have often wondered in cases involving Anti-Semitism on campuses across the country, why patronage or funding of these Universities is not halted by past alumni…? This would send a clear message to the University Administrations that Jewish student will not be victimized by either the teaching staff or other students who obviously are totally ignorant of Israeli-Palestinian history and issues……

  • enufizenuf

    It’s always interesting to note how many of these anti-Israel goons have German last names. From Jew-killers to would-be Jew-killers all in one generation. Jewish students would do well to regard these creatures as absolutely no different than their Nazi German brethren,
    and interfere with their desire to have you and your Jewish relatives extinguished. Or are you gonna let another Shoah happen on your watch?

  • arlene abrams

    Unacceptable……….publicize this and the ‘college’ needs to reach out to all alumni with this disgraceful series of anti semitic acts……………..

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