A prominent university is rushing to do damage control after police were called to investigate the scrawling of swastikas inside a common campus area, according to university officials and sources familiar with the incident.
The office of president of Northeastern University, a top-ranked liberal arts college in Boston, sent an email to students last week marked as an "important message." It expressed "outrage and extreme disappointment" following the discovery of anti-Semitic graffiti in a building in the school’s International Village.
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The local campus police department "immediately" responded to the incident and is "actively" investigating the scene.
But experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon described the incident as the latest in a string on anti-Jewish hate and bigotry that has engulfed the campus in recent years.
The sources explained to the Free Beacon that efforts to work with the university’s administration to dampen the climate of hostility toward Jewish students had not proven fruitful.
During the same weekend the swastikas were discovered, a Jewish student living in an off-campus apartment most inhabited by students discovered that the mezuzah, which is filled parchment inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, on her door had been desecrated for the second time in recent months, according to campus sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the incident.
Northeastern President Joseph Aoun condemned the discovery of swastikas found scrawled on a whiteboard in a campus common area in a March 29 email to the student body.
"I write to express my outrage and extreme disappointment at an incident that occurred in International Village this morning," Aoun said, according to a copy of the note obtained by the Free Beacon.
"At approximately 1:30 am, a resident assistant found swastikas drawn on a dry-erase board in a common area in the building," he wrote. "Our police department reported immediately to the scene, collected evidence of the incident, and is actively investigating."
"I condemn this hateful act of anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms," Aoun wrote. "These actions are completely antithetical to the values of our university and all that we stand for. Bias, hate crimes, and anti-Semitism are completely unacceptable—whether they occur on our campus, or anywhere else."
Arinne Braverman, executive director of Northeastern’s Hillel, said the Jewish community "will not be bullied by these cowardly acts."
Recent efforts by anti-Israel groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to push student government resolutions advocating divestment from Israel have created a climate where Jews can become targets, Braverman said.
SJP has become known for its aggressive anti-Israel campaigns at various campuses across the nation.
"At NU, I don't think it's coincidental that the swastika appeared in the same residence hall where SJP conducted ‘dorm storming’ with mock eviction notices last Spring, and went door-to-door soliciting signatures for their divestment petition, in violation of quiet hours, during midterms just a few weeks ago," she said. "To me, it doesn't matter if the same individuals are involved: Hate begets hate. SJP is a hate group."
Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), said the incidents at Northeastern are particularly disturbing given the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses across America.
"This is a worrying trend nationwide," he said. "The trends at Northeastern are disturbing, and I’m very glad the [university’s] administration is taking this issue very seriously."
A recent survey tracking anti-Semitism on campus found that more than half of Jewish students claim to have witnessed or have been subjected to anti-Jewish harassment.
The survey, which interviewed 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 U.S. colleges, found that 54 percent experienced or witnessed "anti-Semitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year."
One pro-Israel leader who works closely with Jewish students on campus said the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement has helped fuel the rise in anti-Semitism.
"It’s all over the place, people are feeling much more open to attacking Jews because they believe it’s attacking Israel," the source said. "That’s why the swastika is gaining prominence. It reflects a growing anti-Semitism on campus. I see it as the canary in the coal mine."
Another senior official at a major Jewish organization who asked for anonymity due to the political delicacy of the situation with students said the situation at Northeastern is spiraling out of control.
"This is what happens when a campus becomes a stage for full-blown anti-Jewish incitement by bigots masquerading as activists," the source said. "Northeastern has seen anti-Israel groups publish fliers demanding that Jewish students be evicted from campus."
"That's not good wholesome fun for 20-somethings learning to get involved in politics: It's hate," the source added. "University administrators need to enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards it, and keep enforcing it. Otherwise they'll end up where Northeastern is, which is that Jewish parents don't want to send their kids there."