This semester, there have been three reports of swastikas being painted on the 16th floor of East Campus. This is the same floor on which Chinese students’ name tags were burned in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The first incident of anti-Semitic vandalism was confirmed by administrators in mid-February. The latter two incidents were committed on two separate occasions during the week of March 15, according to an email from Undergraduate Student Life Dean Cristen Kromm.
In her email, Kromm wrote that the swastikas were immediately removed when staff was notified. Last week, Residential Life asked students who had not evacuated campus for information to guide the investigation into the two incidents. As of Tuesday, no disciplinary action has been taken, as administrators are still attempting to find the individuals involved, according to a Columbia College spokesperson.
Before the two most recent acts of vandalism had occurred, University President Lee Bollinger had released a statement condemning anti-Semitism on Columbia’s campus. “When a swastika appears on campus, it is not just an isolated event,” he wrote. “When there is a rising anti-Semitism in this country and around the world, even a single instance of it in any context is more alarming than it might otherwise be.”
While notifications of bias incidents are typically circulated to all students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, this message was only sent to the students who had been approved to stay on campus for the rest of the semester due to travel restrictions or safety concerns in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The reasons for the University’s delays in communicating the occurrences of these acts to students have remained unclear, as the message came over a week following the report of the incident. This issue also presented itself when a student found an anti-Black slur outside her room in Carman Hall on Dec. 2 and students were notified on Dec. 18.
Read the March 24 email sent by Kromm to students on campus below:
Dear Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Students,
I write now, to those of you who remain on campus, regarding a deeply concerning issue. On two separate occasions during the past week, I have learned that someone drew a swastika on a wall of the 16th-floor hallway in East Campus. After staff were notified, the drawings were immediately removed, and Residential Life followed up with residents on the floor to ask for information and offer support. Although these symbols are no longer physically present, the hurt and injury left behind continue to ripple across our community.
I remind you that this profoundly offensive, antisemitic symbol is in direct conflict with the University’s core value of inclusivity and has no place in our community. These acts are unacceptable, and we continue to stand strongly against antisemitism and all forms of hatred. Even amidst the chaos enveloping not only our own community but the global community, bigotry and hatred will not be overlooked or excused.
It is especially disheartening that these incidents have occurred in this moment, when we need to — now more than ever — support each other as a community. Together, you have faced many hardships over the course of the past several weeks. Many of your classmates were asked to depart campus and fulfill the requests from authorities and health experts to reduce Columbia’s population density. Those of you who remain do so because you face an individual hardship. It remains essential that you demonstrate compassion and care for one another at this time, even though the ways we are able to come together as a community have been drastically altered.
We are speaking with each of the residents of the 16th floor of East Campus, and we reach out to you now to ask that you let us know if you have any information about these incidents. You may contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Given that residents are not able to sign in or host guests in our residence halls, we may now be more likely to identify who is responsible and are working with campus partners to gather and analyze all available information. Any information you have may help us in this investigation and will also be a stand against offensive acts that hurt us all.
I imagine that many of you will also receive this news with heavy hearts and a mix of other emotions. Know that we are still here to support you, even if we cannot meet in person. Columbia Health services, including Medical Services and Counseling and Psychological Services, are available via virtual delivery. I, and staff in Residential Life, also remain available to support you via phone or email. Please reach out to email@example.com to connect.
Dean of Undergraduate Student Life
Columbia College and Columbia Engineering