According to a Facebook post by a university student on Friday, March 8 a swastika was found drawn on Juniper Hall. The university sent out an email on Tuesday, March 12, signed by Director of Residential Life Jerome Maese, Executive Director of Residential Life, Housing and Food Services Rod Aeschlimann, Associate Vice President of Student Life and Services Jerry Marczynski and Vice President of Student Services Shannon Ellis to inform undergraduate students about the swastika in Juniper Hall. University Police Services were contacted and Juniper held a community meeting to discuss this event, according to the email. The email said Housing Facilities fixed the area of concern and the incident is under investigation by Equal Opportunity and Title IX.
“This symbol and the threatening remarks that accompanied it are unacceptable and wrong,” said the email. “We strongly condemn any symbols and actions that represent hate, intimidation or terror. We stand with members of our Jewish community and all people who find such hateful symbols and abhorrent threats to be offensive, and we will work with a number of groups to ensure that our campus remains safe and welcoming.”
This is the second act of anti-Semitism in the Residence Halls during the 2018-2019 academic school year.
On Oct. 27, 2018 — the same day as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting — an unknown student carved a swastika with a pencil into a wall of Peavine Hall. Peavine staff responded by holding mandatory community meetings to discuss the incident. Police investigated and found the incident did not constitute a hate crime. Peavine residents suggested the use of cameras and an increase of Resident Assistant watch over the building.
“I think it is absurd that the same incident has happened twice in the same school year,” Peavine resident Hunter Dunn said. “With this incident, I am going to be honest and say that I do not feel safe on campus and I feel like my identity is being targeted. People may think etching a swastika is funny and is a huge joke to play, but all in all it is not. The symbol has so much history of hate towards Jewish people, I cannot see the humor in that. I honestly feel the University should take more action now than ever to find the culprit(s) doing this. I strongly feel they need to set up cameras in the residence halls. Yes, we will have less privacy, but if it is what we need in order to ensure not only my safety but others too than so be it. I want to feel welcomed on campus not drawn away from it. I love living being on this campus and I love the memories I have made here, but I have been tempted to transfer colleges because of this incident.”
Hillel of Northern Nevada Director Atty Garfinkel-Berry said acts of anti-semitism on campus have happened since 2011.
“The influx of antisemitism is not an influx, it’s just more people are being aware,” Hillel director “Atty” Garfinkel-Berry said. “This is the Jewish student union. We have a Jewish frat and sorority. All of the same students are in there. Around 200 Jewish students on campus. I would encourage people to come to the bagel breakfast at the Center. Many of our students don’t feel comfortable practicing their faith. Some students stopped wearing yamakas due to Peavine.”
Dean of Students Kimberly Thomas said the incident is being investigated by the university and encourages students to go to support services if they need it.
“Anti-Semitism is never acceptable,” Dean of Students Kimberly Thomas and Maese said in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush. “The university has policies that address behaviors that discriminate against or threaten others as a result of race or ethnicity. After the residence hall was vandalized with a swastika and a threatening statement, both were seen and reported. The residence hall staff notified the University Police and filed a report with the expectation that the police would investigate the complaint. Both departments followed through with separate investigations into the incident. Also, Residence Life staff held a community meeting that same evening to make members of that community aware and ask for their assistance in identifying anyone who may have perpetrated the act. The police and the residence hall staff will continue to investigate discriminatory and threatening acts when discovered or reported to the fullest extent possible to include seeking criminal charges or processing the report through the Office of Student Conduct on campus. We encourage students to remain alert and aware of who visits the residence halls. The awareness of students who reside in the residence halls is important especially in the event that investigations are necessary. We need to know names, descriptions, times, and associates, if identifiable, in order to conduct a thorough investigation that can withstand a criminal or conduct process. We want to believe that students will be more comfortable in their private spaces like residence halls if they believe that our responses will be swift, sensitive, and thorough.”
The Residence Hall Association held a town hall meeting in December 2018 to address students living in the resident halls’ concerns. Some students called for more transparency between housing and students since they were unsure if any action was being done. Students suggested more surveillance in the halls of student housing, increased security, more education on diversity and culture and stricter discipline on hate crimes. Here, Associated Students of the University of Nevada announced they were planning a diversity and inclusion event for April 2019. RHA also advocated for residence halls’ Leadership Council to think of events or activities aimed at inclusion and diversity.
RHA President Serena Phen plans on hosting meetings with students and members of the local Jewish community.
“The Residence Hall Association does not stand for any instances of hate crime or discrimination within our community and hopes to address the issue, provide a platform for students to express themselves, and allow students to comfortably express their identities,” Serena Phen said. “The Residence Hall Association has invited a member of the Hillel of Northern Nevada to speak to RHA’s General Council on Thursday, March 28. I would personally love to extend an invitation out to anyone who would like to learn more about anti-Semitism and social bias constructs to attend this meeting located in the Peavine MPR from 5:00- 7:00 pm. Additionally, RHA is working with ASUN to plan the last Town Hall of the year which will be held on Monday, April 15 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm in the Great Basin MPR. Here we will address many various issues on campus including anti-Semitism. Our speaker from the Hillel of Northern Nevada will also be joining us at the Town Hall to present a talk on combating bigotry and bias with a distinct focus on the Jewish community as well as provide support for students affected by this incident.”
In response to the Peavine incident, ASUN held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 to address student concerns. Around 100 students, faculty and concerned individuals attended the event. Topics of discussion included discrimination, sexual assault and Tau Kappa Epsilon. Some students condemned the university for not addressing anti-Semitism properly and others felt the university did not support its Jewish students. In February 2019, President Hannah Jackson announced her partnership with Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi sorority and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity in order to create workshops to address anti-Semitism on campus. ASUN, Student Services and Hillel plan to bring the Anti-defamation League of Nevada on campus for training.
ASUN is hosting a town hall addressing anti-Semitism on Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in Great Basin Hall’s Multipurpose Room.
“We hope students will help us brainstorm on ways to partner with RHA and the university to implement legislation and solutions that will combat these issues,” ASUN President-elect Anthony Martinez said.
Anti-Semitic symbols have been seen around the university before this year. An unknown student tagged the Church Fine Art’s graffiti stairwell—a place where students decorate the walls with murals — with swastikas and a message which said: “is this political enough?” in October 2018. In response, the College of Liberal Arts invited artists in the community to paint over the swastikas.
Former university student and graduate Peter Cvjetanovic participated in a “Unite the Right” white supremacists rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. His participation made regional and national headline as university students demanded Cvjetanovic to be expelled and fired from his job at the university. The university did not expel or fire him stating he had the right to free speech. Cvjetanovic decided to resign from his on-campus job.
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush