UConn responds to recent antisemitic incidents at Storrs campus

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The University of Connecticut President released a statement Tuesday morning in response to two recent antisemitic incidents that occurred at the Storrs campus over the weekend. 

“In recent days, we have been made aware of several incidents of hateful conduct and speech directed at members of our community on the Storrs campus,” University President Thomas Katsouleas said in the email. “This includes vile antisemitic graffiti on a building near Hillel and deeply offensive comments directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community, among others.”  

According to UConn Hillel’s Instagram page, two separate incidents were reported over the weekend, one involving antisemitic graffiti and another accounting hateful, antisemitic language.  

Both incidents occurred during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and are the fifth and sixth antisemitic incidents to occur on campus this school year, according to the Instagram page.  

“On Saturday, March 27th, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, a swastika was found graffitied on the side of the Chemistry Building directly facing the UConn Hillel building,” the account posted. “The UConn Police department responded to this incident, and there is an ongoing investigation.”  

The second post described the incident reported on Sunday, March 28.  

“A Jewish student was walking past Mirror Lake holding a Kippah and a box of matzah when a student driving past slowed down, rolled down the window, and yelled antisemitic comments,” the post said.  

UConn Hillel also noted that they have been in contact with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and UConn Faith, demanding “a swift and powerful response by the university,” according to their post, as they also highlighted the importance of education as part of the solution to hate present on campus and around the world.  

“We have seen time and time again that education is the solution to much of the hate present in our world and on our campus,” UConn Hillel’s Instagram post said. “We hope that Jewish students and non-Jewish students alike feel emboldened to call out antisemitism when they witness it, educate on antisemitism, and support each other as we heal from these hurtful actions.”  

In its email, UConn highlighted that hate speech or anything of the like that violates the Student Code of Conduct will be met with disciplinary action.  

“We are taking these incidents very seriously, and any violations of the law or the Student Code of Conduct will be answered with disciplinary measures and law enforcement where appropriate,” the email said.  

The president then directed students to available resources on campus, including the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Institutional Equity, the Center for Students with Disabilities, as well as the available on-campus cultural centers and faith centers.  

The email also encouraged students who have been witness or victim of a crime to reach out to the UConn police department (UCPD).  

Katsouleas concluded by emphasizing the importance of standing united against hateful words and conduct.  

“It is distressing to me that a letter like this one is necessary, but it is absolutely urgent for us to make clear to all of our students, faculty, and staff members that you are vital, valued members of the UConn community. For those who feel distressed or uncertain in the face of incidents of abhorrent conduct, let us be as clear as we can: Hate has no place here,” the email said.

Just a few hours after the university’s email was sent out, Facilities Operations staff reported “a swastika and ‘SS’ spray painted on the Philip E. Austin building on the Storrs Campus,” UConn Hillel posted on their Instagram.  

This is the third antisemitic incident to occur within a matter of four days on Storrs campus, and the seventh incident to occur this academic year.  

The incident is currently being investigated by UCPD, and the Bias Incident Protocol has been activated, according to UConn Hillel’s Instagram post.  

“Enough is enough. Jewish students on campus are done being silent,” UConn Hillel wrote.  

They encouraged their followers to look out for upcoming information regarding a gathering planned for April 5 that will seek to show support for Jewish students and stand up against antisemitism.  

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