Jewish Group Calls for New Steps to Address Antisemitic Harassment at University of Connecticut
A Jewish advocacy group is joining a Jewish University of Connecticut student’s efforts to resolve a complaint she filed after facing antisemitic harassment for removing anti-Zionist flyers posted at a school library.
On February 28, senior Natalie Shclover and her boyfriend, Zacharia El-Tayyeb, went to Homer Babbidge library to remove the flyers, when an argument ensued with four students who objected to their actions. The flyers, showing a map of Israel juxtaposed with an image of a child being strangled and a picture of university president Radenka Maric, were posted in violation of school rules, Shclover learned.
During the confrontation, one student allegedly said, “Even though you’re a Jew, you still have to respect us,” while others called her a ““f***king b**ch,” a “white supremacist,” and a “f***king Zionist.”
The incident was denounced by Jewish groups on campus and across the country, with the Anti-Defamation League saying it was “deeply disturbed.”
University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric also weighed in, writing in a message to the school community that the antisemitic remarks reported were “unacceptable in any context” and that the “dispute wasn’t really about flyers in the library.”
“That was what sparked it but it was really about much deeper issues tied to the combustible combination of religion, cultural identity, politics, history, and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East — a conflict that plays out around the world, including here,” Maric wrote, adding school officials had been asked to “dive deeper into the issue.”
However, Shclover told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, no disciplinary charges were filed against the offending students and the administration has not accepted her requests to discuss the incident in a meeting.
On Monday, StandWithUs, a nonprofit organization that educates young people about Israel, issued a joint letter with Shclover thanking President Maric for denouncing antisemitism while asking her to meet with Shclover to discuss her experience.
“We wish to take this opportunity to request that you take the next vital step of meeting directly with Natalie and StandWithUs to address the larger issues surrounding this incident in the hopes of preventing further such occurrences at UConn,” the letter said.
It continued, “This experience has deepened Natalie’s resolve to be an active participant, in partnership with the administration, in the process of making the UConn community an environment in which students, including Jewish and Zionist students, are able to openly and freely express their identities without fear of reprisal in the forms of harassment, intimidation, and/or marginalization.”
The letter also proposed measures to prevent social media bullying and the expulsion of students from school clubs without due process. Shclover and Tayyeb, who is Muslim and of Jordanian descent, received harassing messages on Instagram after taped footage of the incident was posted online, and Shclover was subsequently dismissed from the Chordials, an a capella group.
“It’s definitely been hard to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have these big group of friends to take graduation photos with like I had planned just two months ago, that I won’t have a final concert, and that I still feel a bit uneasy every time I receive a notification on my phone,” Shclover told The Algemeiner in a Tuesday interview. “It’s unfortunate, but I’m trying to make the best of the situation.”
She said her boyfriend El-Tayyeb has been “an absolute rock throughout all of this and has helped me with coping with all the messages and harassment, and he himself is facing it as well and has been able to put himself aside and support me.”
El-Tayyeb told The Algemeiner that “it hurt to see the Chordials acting so quickly.”
“That was her support system and where she made her best friends,” he said.
The StandWithUs letter also suggested adopting “proactive safeguards to help prevent the recurrence of this type of situation.”