On the same day a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead and six others injured, a swastika was found carved into a wall with a pencil in Peavine Hall.
In response to this vandalism, Peavine Hall called for a mandatory community meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30 to address these issues. Residents, resident assistants and resident directors were in attendance.
“We want all members of our community to feel welcome and safe, and the best ones to promote that feeling are the other students in the community,” Rod Aeschlimann, the director of Residential Life, Housing & Food Services said. “Students are asked to listen to each other and to reach out to others for support….. to be watchful and aware of friends most affected by fear and emotion, letting them know your own personal support of them and encouraging utilization of campus resources if appropriate.”
At the meeting, it was announced there was an open hate crime investigation. Several rooms in the area of the carved swastika were interrogated by the police. In order to avoid similar situations in the future, students suggested for the installation of cameras in the hallway or to have resident assistants conduct 24-hour watch on all floors.
”We wanted to remind the community that these acts of hate and discrimination not only create an environment of hostility but are a violation of university policy.” Amanda Chavez, the resident director of Peavine and Edtivia Rutherford, the graduate resident director of Peavine said in an email to Peavine residents. “We are a welcoming community that strives to embrace diversity and inclusion. We are made up of people from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. All of us deserve the right to be treated with respect and live in an environment where we are not subject to discrimination.
Several residents who live on the floor of the incident feel unsafe and unwelcomed by the Peavine community after the vandalism.
”The minute I saw the swastika symbol on the wall, honestly, it came as a big shock to me.” Hunter Dunn, a Jewish resident of Peavine said. “I immediately almost broke down — like a mental break down — and ran to my room so I wouldn’t have to see it. I felt so scared. I didn’t know what to do at all. Seeing a swastika is a fear for my life. I don’t feel welcome in my community right now. I just feel confused about everything in Peavine. I’m just glad they’re taking action. I hope it makes our community safer.”
The Hillel of Northern Nevada is a center for Jewish college students who attend the UNR or other colleges in Northern Nevada. The Hillel of Northern Nevada urged those affected by these acts of anti-Semitism to speak to their members, Rabbis and chaplains. During the first and third Wednesday of each month, Hillel hosts “Bagels at the Joe”, an event that allows students to learn about the Jewish community.
The national organization of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity, announced their chapters will conduct a Shabbat program on affiliated campuses. They encourage Jewish communities and allies to attend the Shabbat in honor of the victims in Pittsburgh and to overcome anti-Semitism.
“We should all be alarmed by the pattern of violence and hate on our campus and in our country,” said Associated Student of the University of Nevada President Hannah Jackson in a statement. “In the last two weeks, we have seen events unfold in Kentucky, Pittsburgh, as well as in our own Peavine hall. These acts are hateful, senseless, and appalling, and remind us that anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of hate continue to exist. As members of this learning community, we must be stronger than this hate. It is the responsibility of each of us to create a community that is welcoming, safe, and inclusive.
With the rise of hate crime across Northern Nevada, the Reno-Sparks NAACP encourages inhabitants to attended anti-hate demonstrations. In the Reno area alone, several people have defaced campaign signs and sent hate flyers to Reno’s temple, Emanu-El.
“On top of all this came the mail bombs, the murders of two black people at a Kentucky grocery store and then the Pittsburgh massacre. We encourage the community to show up at anti-hate vigils around Nevada,” added NAACP Vice-President Andrew Barbano.
The vandalism of Peavine Hall is not the only diversity issue the university has faced in recent years.
Peter Cvjetanovic participated in a protest at Charlottesville alongside white supremacist supporters in August 2017. After his participation in the rally surfaced and made national headlines, students called for his expulsion and firing from his campus job. He later resigned.
In September of the same year, University Police Services Officer Adam Wilson conducted a traffic stop where he joked about shooting black graduate student, Kevin McReynolds.
A month later, an unknown student tagged The Church Fine Arts “graffiti stairwell” — a stairwell that welcomes people to decorate the walls with paintings and murals — with swastikas along with a message which read: “is this political enough?”. After the incident, the College of Liberal Arts invited members of the community to paint over the hateful symbols.
“Universities are communities and when people feel threatened and unwelcome in a community, it’s not just the individual but the community that suffers,” said Jen Hill, the Director of Gender, Race, Identity Program and Women’s Studies. “Individually, we can reach out to our Jewish friends, neighbors, classmates, professors, and staff to let them know that we support them. We can listen to them and honor their experiences. We can and should also come together to let the larger community know that hatred and intolerance are things that have no place here.”
The Equal Opportunity and Title IX manages discrimination cases on campus. EOTIX advises victims of discrimination to file a report within their office. A student can walk in to file a harassment report or conduct one online. After the incident is filed, an investigator from Title IX reaches out to the individual who filed the port to obtain more background information before a formal investigation starts to find out what the student wants to do.
EOTIX encourages students to speak out if there is an issue of discrimination on campus. For the month of Nov, EOTIX created the “Campus Climate Survey” to find inclusion issues on campus.
“We know things are happening. The only way we can help is if students use their voice and speak out.” Maria Doucettperry, the director of ADA and Title IX Coordinator, said.
In response to the vandalism and other events, ASUN will be holding a Town Hall on Wednesday, November 7th at 5:30 p.m. in the Joe Crowley Ballroom A in place of the weekly Senate meeting.
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @OliviaNAli.