Residence hall doors at Rowan University were defaced with swastikas and anti-Semitic symbols.
Instead of being decked with boughs of holly, the halls of Rowan University have been defaced by an anti-Semitic act.
The vandalism was done with swastikas “as well as other anti-Semitic markings,” according to a message sent campus-wide by vice president of student life/ dean of students Richard Jones. The incident is under police investigation.
“It is important to clearly state that the sort of bias and hate that this type of incident represents are completely inconsistent with Rowan’s values,” Jones wrote on Dec. 6. “Members of our community should be safe from hate in all areas of the campus, from the residence halls to the classrooms.”
The doors were marked in Chestnut Hall on Dec. 3, a freshmen residence hall that houses more than 350 students.
The building includes a set of suites with seven to 14 rooms in it, according to vice president for University Relations Jose Cardona, so as many as 30 students can occupy a suite.
The swastikas appeared to be carved with keys, Cardona said, so the university was able to easily sand over and remove them. The doors that were vandalized did not belong to any Jewish students, so the direct motive is unclear.
He said it is still unknown who carved them. With a male suite of approximately 30 students, it is possible that a resident could have done it or they could have let in a friend or acquaintance, but “only they have the keys.”
Unfortunately, Cardona said, incidents like this happen, but they are not tolerated in any form, swastikas or otherwise.
This act of vandalism occurred less than one month after the founding of the new Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
The inaugural event on Nov. 18 hosted two Holocaust survivors to share their stories to about 200 attendees.
Stephen Hague, history instructor and center coordinator, said the center intends to educate people about the Holocaust and its significance and broader issues of genocide.
There has been no indication that the vandalism is linked to the center’s opening. Hague said there has actually been an outpouring of support for the center since the incident, and that a lot of positive awareness has come from it.
“In light of it happening so soon of our inaugural program, these horrible acts can happen,” he added. “The big message we’ve taken away from it is it reinforces the need for a center like this to exist.”
He doesn’t think this will affect the center’s programming for the spring semester, but will rather add to the need to educate people that anti-Semitism is still occurring.
“It’s my profound hope that incidents like this can be turned positive; it opens up opportunities for discussion that these kind of acts can still happen,” he said. “We have to be dedicated to tackling these issues.”
Marc Fleischner, adviser to Rowan University Hillel, added that though the motive is unclear, the university is treating the incident with appropriate gravity.
“I’ve been at Rowan 16 years,” he said, “and this is really the first time that something has happened here in all that time, so obviously, it’s worrisome. We’re going to take it seriously. We’re working with the university to take steps to prevent this type of thing. But it’s always worrisome. It’s not what we want Rowan to be known for because it is a very safe campus.”
Rabbi Hersh Loschak, co-director of the Rohr Family Jewish Student Center Chabad of Rowan University, said they still held its first-ever Chanukah menorah lighting celebration on Dec. 8 on the Rowan Student Center patio.
“We invited everyone to attend as a sign of Jewish pride, solidarity and as a statement of defiance in the face of hatred and bigotry,” Loschak wrote in an email.
He added that Chanukah is all about freedom of religion and the victory of light over darkness.
It sends a strong message to not just the Jewish community, Loschak said, but for the whole Rowan community to be more tolerant and including.
“It’s so important that we continue showing our pride and that we’re proud to be who we are and that we’re going to celebrate Chanukah no matter what,” he said. “This won’t stop us at all.”
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