University grapples with repeated instances of anti-Semitic graffiti
By Emily Schuelein
Over the months of July, August and September, three cases of anti-Semitic vandalism found on campus were reported, according to Director of Security Todd Badham.
The first piece of vandalism was found on a “handrail on the music building. The second one was on the bike rack on the northeast corner of the science center by the main concert hall entrance. The last one was written… on a light concrete wall as part of Thomas Hall,” said Badham.
“I keep in touch with the Tacoma Police Department and it’s nothing that they’ve seen, you know, outside of campus that they’re aware of. It’s not part of a bigger problem that they’re working on,” Badham said.
In response to who is responsible for the vandalism, Badham said there is “at least a good assumption that it’s done by the same person. They’re all written in open spaces, you know, open public spaces, so it’s hard to know if it’s a member of the community or someone coming to campus.”
All of the vandalism was done using a gold paint pen, “the writing’s real similar, [the] theme seems to be consistent, the medium, the tool they’re using, seems to be consistent,” Badham said.
Jewish student leaders described how they heard about the incidents.
“I was on campus on Aug. 19 as a perspectives leader and Dave Wright sent out a text to various Jewish life leaders on campus [after the vandalism was found],” Matt Rothman, Treasurer and Membership Liaison of Hillel, said. “We made an announcement at the end of ‘I am Puget Sound’ and there was a space provided,” he continued.
Members of Hillel expressed concerns about whether Jewish students will feel safe on campus following acts of anti-Semitic vandalism.
“I personally do not feel unsafe but I’ve heard several other students in reaction to these incidents say that they feel unsafe on campus or just as a visibly Jewish person,” Rothman said.
On Aug. 21, a campus-wide email was sent from Chief Diversity Officer Michael Benitez, about the anti-Semitic graffiti found on a bike rack near Thompson Hall.
“The two areas where we say, you know, it might be right to send out a campus-wide message, for example, is if it rises to a level of jeopardizing student safety and welfare of our community members or, particularly, if individuals or certain groups are targeted specifically,” Benitez said.
The Bias-Hate Education Response Team (BHERT) page on the University’s website states that BHERT “aims to foster greater awareness of bias and hate on campus and how incidents of bias and hate may be shaping our community. BHERT cultivates a space for proactive dialogue related to emerging trends of bias or hate incidents on campus.”
“What can we do in response, but also proactively to honor, to acknowledge not only the work that needs to happen here so that we can provide more education on antisemitism and antisemitic awareness and how you confront that or just how you respond to it when you’re confronted with it,” Benitez said.
“If we have a significant amount of anti-Semitism on this campus and we are at an institution that’s saying, you know, we are an inclusive community, then it’s also our responsibility to honor and celebrate that particular culture that we’re inviting here under the guise of inclusion. By carrying out some programming that relates culturally to who you are because you are part of this community,” Benitez said.
Hillel Vice President Rebekah Sherman aims to be productive following these events.
“I’m choosing to channel my emotions in response to these anti-Semitic incidents into pushing to get things done to improve situations like this on campus. I think if we can use these incidents as fuel to kind of push ourselves and our community and the administration to be more aware and more inclusive and more considerate of all sorts of diversity, I think that would be a victory,” Sherman said.