How will we respond to antisemitism?

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This past weekend, the University of Connecticut experienced two antisemitic attacks. First, a swastika was graffitied facing the University of Connecticut Hillel Jewish cultural building, and then a Jewish student was targeted by antisemitic remarks while walking alone. According to UConn Hillel, these make three during this year’s ongoing Jewish holiday of Passover and seven within the semester. The Daily Campus condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms, urging everyone at UConn to stand behind our Jewish community, to refuse to condone hatred in any form and to demand a response from the administration proportionate to the gravity and increasing frequency of such attacks. 

UConn Hillel has planned a Solidarity Gathering to fight antisemitism for April 5, at 3:30 p.m. on the Student Union Lawn. The next day, they’re hosting a holocaust commemoration ceremony and dialogue with a Holocaust survivor. Further, some Jewish students have drafted a petition urging the administration to take immediate action against these attacks. These are a few ways which we as a community can support our Jewish members at this time.  

Yet, the greater question is how the administration will choose to respond to the attacks and if they will take actions to address what is evidently an antisemitic cultural problem here. President Thomas Katsouleas emailed the student body afterwards, acknowledging the severity of the attacks and pointing to a variety of existing community resources. Yet an email alone cannot constitute a challenge to antisemitism or any form of hate. As indicated by demands from petitioning students and the Undergraduate Student Government, a mere acknowledgement of this problem allows antisemitism to persist.  

As the petitioners indicate, recently great attention has been called to campus antisemitism, and this awaits a legitimate, appropriate response from the administration. As they further acknowledge, potential approaches range from increasing security near Jewish buildings on campus, to increasing Jewish representation within the university curriculum, to simply investigating and deferring to the perspective of Jewish activists on how to combat this kind of hate — a duty which befalls the administration now. 

Let’s consider our existing ability to respond. SHaW Mental Health represents an important community resource during surges in hatred. But it is woefully understaffed, it is without culturally relevant staff members and most students cannot establish regular treatment there. Can UConn increase the funding and resources for this critical department now?  

Elsewhere, UCPD has a mechanism for reporting crimes, and UConn has a bias reporting protocol for non-criminal incidents of hate. Yet, what is far more important than the presence or effectiveness of such protocols is the policy responses they inspire after being used to inform authorities about problems. Can the administration indicate that these mechanisms are in fact meaningful? 

Our community has a critical responsibility right now to rally behind Jewish students. Further, the UConn administration has a critical message to send to the Jewish students on campus at this time. It can either take substantial efforts to combat antisemitism and make clear that hate will not be tolerated, or it can allow Jewish students to continue questioning if they belong at UConn, and allow antisemites to feel comfortable knowing they do.  

1 COMMENT

  1. Zero of these suggestions would prevent people from drawing swastikas. The university can and should prosecute anyone who assaults someone or vandalizes property with hate symbols. The university can and should expel students who harass and intimidate others with hate.

    The university should not increase tuition to fund well-intentioned yet ineffective projects by activists just to say that they did something.

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