The University of Richmond is investigating antisemitic and white supremacist symbols that were found in two bathroom stalls late last week, UR President Kevin Hallock wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff on Nov. 16.
Hallock admonished the acts and wrote that the University of Richmond Police Department was thoroughly investigating them as acts of vandalism. He added that the stall appeared to be vandalized by a single person.
Hallock emphasized that these acts do not represent the perspective and beliefs of the UR community.
“The sentiments represented by the graffiti are deplorable, and we condemn these beliefs and actions in the strongest possible terms,” Hallock wrote.
The incidents come after several other acts of offensive vandalism in recent years, including racist graffiti found on a student’s dorm room door in Moore Hall in 2020 and white supremacist stickers discovered around campus in 2019.
In December 2018, two students were called to the dean’s office for posting a SnapChat video featuring swastikas on a gingerbread house. The students apologized and said the video had been made to display their dislike for antisemitism. Sociology professor Eric Grollman, who was suspicious of the students’ motives in the 2018 incident, questioned what the impact would be of this symbol being seen by others.
“To me, it really signifies what is going to come out of this, which is nothing,” Grollman said in a 2018 Collegian article regarding the incident. “It’s as if once we’ve gotten [diverse students] onto campus, the responsibility to make sure they actually feel included and integrated is no longer of concern.”
Similar white supremacist and antisemitic symbols and epithets appearing on campus once again prompted concern among community members.
Lisa Miles, associate director of the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion, described the recent vandalism as singling out an identity group in a discriminatory way, which was both scary and deeply upsetting.
“We never want a student to feel alone and like nobody cares because a lot of people were really taken aback to hear about this,” Miles said.
Miles said that her office was a resource for affected students to come and get the support they need.
“Students are far from home, their house of worship and their families, so when something like this happens, they need to know that there really is a community here to support them,” Miles added.
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Josh Jeffreys, Jewish Chaplain and director of religious life, works to foster a community where students who practice Judaism feel safe and welcome. He offered hopeful next steps in response to these antisemitic acts.
“Jewish students are looking for allies, so I think that this is a real moment and opportunity -- if there is a silver lining to be found -- to build a coalition to support all minority communities.”
Jeffreys spoke of how best to support Jewish communities experiencing the rise of antisemitism on UR’s campus, locally and around the world.
“Responding to acute incidents is important and is just the beginning of a process,” Jeffreys said. “I would encourage everyone to reach out to those they feel may be impacted by this incident to offer love and care and to validate the experience of Jewish students, faculty and staff.”
Jeffreys and Jamie Lynn Haskins, Chaplain for spiritual life and communications director, invite students, staff and faculty to make handmade signs, posters and banners that offer messages of love and support to UR's Jewish community, according to an email sent to community members on Thursday afternoon by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement team.
CCE will supply markers, craft materials and poster board from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. today and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. tomorrow, according to the email. The signs and words of encouragement will be dropped off at the Wilton Center to be placed on walls outside of the multi-faith room where Shabbat will be held.
Hallock concluded his email with a plea to the community before listing campus resources for support.
“Let's commit as a community once more to creating a campus environment where all are welcome and feel an enormous sense of belonging,” Hallock said.
Contact contributor Alanna Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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