Read: "Anti-Semitism revealed on campus" Response to June 2nd, "Anti-Semitism revealed on campus" I appreciate that the University is recognizing anti-Semitism on campus and taking steps to prevent it, but there needs to be immediate action taken; these students should be suspended right now. Anti-Semitism is not tremendously different than any other form of intolerance, bigotry or hate. I am curious as to why there is a task force being created to “review the impact of anti-Semitism and best practices to prevent and respond to concerns of anti-Semitism.” A major impact of anti-Semitism, or other forms of hate, is that victims feel unsafe and traumatized. This leads to extended negative effects on a person’s studies, livelihood, personal relationships, familial stress and so on, just as ripples in a pond emanate from a rock being thrown into it. These ripples can last for generations; the Nazi symbol, even now, is traumatic for generations of Jews who weren’t even alive during the Holocaust. In terms of best practices to responses of concerns of anti-Semitism, the university should change its approach with due haste. Reports of anti-Semitism are not concerns. They are real and they are threats. There are no best practices. There are, however, laws against hate crimes and associated punishments. The university need to refer these incidents to local law enforcement. Administration doesn’t need to come up with a creative response; it needs to protect minority students against crime. The out-going university president is reported to have said that students committing these crimes are “well-educated, nice college students… [who aren’t] doing this on purpose. They are not mean, racist kids.” I disagree with the first statement. These students have agency to act on their own behalf and are indeed doing this on purpose. They may not be racists, but they are doing racist things. Students should be held accountable for their actions and have an opportunity to be punished for criminal behavior like hate crimes. A student who takes a book from the bookstore without paying may not be a thief, but that student still stole a book. The university acted well in insisting that students take a one-and-a-half hour long ethics workshop and submit a reflection. This would have been an educational opportunity. But to uphold appeals that allow these students to “do community service” is unacceptable. Which community did these students serve if they didn’t have to at least reflect on their actions about how racism is wrong? As the university spends the time on creating a task force, it should also suspend these students or pass matters of hate crimes over to law enforcement so that perpetrators are persecuted in court. These “well-educated” students may recognize that a swastika is “a peace symbol in some cultures.” Those cultural representatives, however, were not the ones writing the symbol in these instances. A comment like that reflects racism, not “well-educated.” The University would be wise to heed the lessons of nature. I may mean no harm when I poke the hornets’ nest but they will still come out and sting me. I will learn never to do that again. Students who commit hate crimes may not know the extent of the damage they cause. But they must be held accountable to the university and to the law. I feel confident saying the campus police would be involved if someone were caught shoplifting from the bookstore. There may even be repercussions with school standing and eligibility.
Western tried to do well but ultimately failed in the short term. The students who committed anti-Semitic/racist/hate acts should be immediately suspended from the university so they are given an appropriate amount of time to reflect about their actions. Victims would be able to heal, perpetrators would be punished, and community members and alumni would feel that the university is still a worthy cause to fund.
-- David Strich (M.Ed '12, Western)