Swarthmore Promises Swift, Serious Investigation Into Swastika Graffiti on Campus
With antisemitic activity becoming more commonplace at big-name American universities, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania promises that an investigation into the appearance of swastika graffiti will be handled swiftly and seriously, a school official told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
“Let me be perfectly clear. These hateful symbols will not be tolerated here and we will do everything in our power to investigate their origin and deal with the perpetrators,” said Swarthmore College Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Development T. Shá Duncan Smith.
According to Swarthmore’s The Daily Gazette, news of the two swastikas — which were discovered August 30 in a bathroom at the on-campus McCabe Library — “sent ripples of activity through the college…and, eventually, onto the news feeds of tens of thousands of people.”
Duncan Smith is part of Swarthmore’s Bias Response Team, which is responsible for investigating campus bias incidents, or “acts of conduct, speech, or expression that target individuals and groups” based on their identity, according to the college website.
Speaking to the student newspaper, Duncan Smith — who recently arrived at the private Pennsylvanian college from the University of Michigan — said this type of antisemitic activity was not new to her, as she came from a school environment where “this happens kind of often.” According to The Daily Gazette, “But that it [an antisemitic incident] happened in an historically progressive, small community like Swarthmore made it more disturbing to Duncan Smith.”
Duncan Smith told The Algemeiner that the “Swarthmore community is a very special one, where we embrace academic freedom at the same time as insisting upon mutual respect and understanding, especially across our differences.”
“Our community is united in our repudiation of such heinous acts,” she added.
According to reporting by Swarthmore’s independent campus newspaper, The Phoenix, the school’s administration was quick to respond to the initial bias report about the swastikas. The morning after their discovery, the report said, Swarthmore President Valerie Smith, “sent an email to the entire community detailing the event, gave a history of the symbol and encouraged people to contact Public Safety with any additional information.”
Jamie Starr, a leader of the Swarthmore Jewish Community Kehilah, told The Phoenix that she was “a little shocked” to hear of the antisemitic hate crime at his school.
“You don’t expect these things to happen at a community like Swarthmore, which I think makes it harder to deal with. It’s less expected,” she said. “If we had heard about something like this happening at a larger university or a big southern state school where there’s more of a precedent for this type of hatred, I think it would have been less shocking than to have it at Swarthmore which not only is my home but also just this small intellectual community where you don’t expect things like this.”
The events at Swarthmore highlight an increasing trend of antisemitic expression across US college campuses. According to a campus watchdog report, antisemitic incidents increased by 45 percent during the first half of 2016 as compared to the same time period in 2015.
As The Algemeiner reported last month, pro-Israel students are preparing for what is expected to be a challenging year on college campuses where combating antisemitism is concerned.