University of Georgia President Jere Morehead sent an ArchNews message to faculty, staff and students on Nov. 21 condemning “swastikas drawn on message boards and placards in two of our residence halls.”
“I am appalled by such offensive and outrageous displays of hate. Let me be clear: this type of behavior has no place on our campus,” Morehead wrote. “The University of Georgia is defined by our shared values. Respect for others, diversity of thought, a love of learning, and a drive to expand knowledge and make a positive difference—these values unite us as a campus community and inspire our academic endeavors.”
Morehead also asked students with information about the drawings to contact the Equal Opportunity Office or UGA police, before calling for the community to "reaffirm our commitment to ensuring a welcoming and inclusive environment."
Twice in the past two months, students have contacted the UGA Equal Opportunity Office to report swastikas being drawn on signs on their doors in Russell and Creswell Halls, according to a UGA Police Department police report.
According to the police report, on Oct. 6, a student who lives at Creswell found a swastika and the word “Heil” drawn on the dry-erase board hanging from their door. The same student, and another on the same hall, had signs of their Jewish sorority letters torn down from their doors in August.
On Nov. 9, a different UGA student living at Russell returned from a UGA football game and found swastikas drawn on the laminated name tags on their door, as well as other doors on the same hall. The symbols were drawn with a dry-erase marker and were erased by the students, according to the report.
The incidents have prompted responses from campus groups, as well as a proclamation put forth by the Student Government Association Senate.
Proclamation 32-09, passed by the SGA Senate on Nov. 12 and signed by SGA President Rachel Byers, will prompt SGA work with the Equal Opportunity Office, University Housing and Resident Assistants “to create appropriate educational materials in residence halls.” The materials would include a uniform statement on the campus anti-discrimination policy and instructions for how students can report issues, according to the proclamation.
The UGA Residence Hall Association, which “advocate[s] for the 8,300+ residents that live on campus,” released a statement condemning the actions that lead to the reports.
“The actions that occurred are deeply disturbing, as discrimination of any sort has no place in the UGA community,” the post read. “We acknowledge that our duties won’t stop after we release this statement. We are currently working to provide sustainable solutions and continue this conversation with residents, University Housing, and other organizations.”
Representatives from Chabad at UGA and Hillel UGA, two Jewish student organizations, condemned the use of anti-Semetic symbols and discrimination of any kind.
“Everybody knows a swastika is an anti-Semetic symbol, and I think anti-Semitism, and any hatred, should be oblitorated,” Rabbi Michoel Refson of Chabad at UGA said. “It is a shame [hatred] exists and everybody should do the utmost to combat evil.”
Roey Shoshan, executive director of Hillel at UGA, has spoken with students affected by the incidents. He emphasized the emotional toll that anti-Semitic symbols have taken on Jewish students, combined with recent demonstrations on campus that referenced the Holocaust.
“I think when you take the incidents, and you also take the pro-life exhibition at Tate — Holocaust symbols were used in that exhibition — it was very hurtful for a lot of the Jewish students that were on campus,” Shoshan said. “It was a combination of things that made people feel disrespected, very uncomfortable and, quite frankly, hurt.”
Both Refson and Shoshan said the university has handled the incidents in the residence halls well, citing the actions taken by the Equal Opportunity Office and University Housing.
“At the end of the day, I think [what the university has done] is great,” Shoshan said. “I think we’re fighting a battle that is not just for Jewish people, but for people in general, because this is not OK.”
In an emailed statement, UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor said UGA is aware of the reports and is committed to fostering a “welcoming and inclusive environment,” for the entire community.
Still, Shoshan said the issue is one that should not be taken lightly.
“We’re worried that these instances are not going to stop,” Shoshan said. “What Hillel has been trying to do, throughout the process, is to support the students … and work with UGA to really solve this and educate people.”