Thirty-six organizations wrote a letter to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin on Nov. 5 out of concern for the Jewish community at MU after the latest act of anti-Semitic vandalism in residence halls.
The letter discussed how all 36 groups are “dismayed that neither (Loftin) nor any other MU administrator has yet to publicly address this act of blatant anti-Semitism,” and urged Loftin to follow their specific instructions on how to defend Jewish students on campus.
Last spring, then-freshman Bradley Becker was arrested for two incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in Mark Twain Hall. At 2 a.m. on Oct. 24, Residential Life staff found feces smeared in the shape of a swastika on the floor and wall of a bathroom in Gateway Hall, according to a Residence Halls Association statement.
MU Police Department is still actively investigating the most recent act of vandalism, Maj. Brian Weimer said.
The 36 organizations also shared their concern about “the departmental sponsorship and implicit ideological endorsement of virulently anti-Israel events.” The letter described two departmental sponsorship events that were anti-Israeli in nature, including the talk by Saree Makdisi in November 2014, which called for the elimination of the Jewish state. It was sponsored by six MU departments along with the University Lectures Committee and the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative.
The other was in April 2015, and it consisted of a panel discussion entitled “Palestine in Context,” during which MU Professor George Smith called for an end to Zionism. The panel was sponsored by MU Socialists, MU Peace Studies and Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation. The letter also described an upcoming talk called “Racism in Israel,” by anti-Zionist David Sheen, “who compares Israeli Jews to Nazis.” That event is sponsored by MU Socialists, MU Peace Studies, Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, MU Black Studies Department, Mid-Missourians for Justice in Palestine, Islamic Center of Central Missouri and Occupy COMO.
“Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls have all stated that denying Israel’s right to exist, as some departmentally-sponsored MU speakers have, is anti-Semitism,” the letter stated.
The letter said MU administration effectively addressed the act of racism that occurred at Traditions Plaza on Oct. 4 but claimed that the same response to the feces swastika has been lacking.
“We commend you for your prompt, vigorous and comprehensive response to this act of racism,” the statement read. “At the same time, we urge you to treat blatant acts of anti-Jewish bigotry, such as a swastika smeared in feces on a dormitory wall, no less promptly, vigorously and comprehensively.”
The letter encouraged Loftin “to demonstrate unequivocally (Loftin’s) commitment to protecting Jewish students no less than other students on (MU’s) campus” and offered steps for Loftin to take.
- “Swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge” the swastika drawn with feces in Gateway Hall as an act of anti-Semitism.
- “Publicly commit” to educating MU staff and MUPD officers on identifying anti-semitic activity.
- Educate students on anti-Semitism and Jewish discrimination.
- “Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism” in order to accurately see the difference between “acceptable criticism of Israel’s policies” and acts of hate toward Jews.
Loftin responded to the letter, explaining his action on the situation. He said MU administration did not immediately respond to the feces swastika “in order to give law enforcement time to investigate.”
“Our stance has not and will not change — the University of Missouri seeks to be a welcoming and inclusive campus to all students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Loftin said in his reply. “We are committed to mandatory training of our people in inclusion and diversity and will continue to work with all to build the framework necessary to achieve our goal.”
Loftin’s reply also mentioned that he met with a Jewish student leader on Nov. 4 and has arranged to have a meeting with three Jewish student groups so he can listen to their input on what they want done if incidents like this one happen again and how to overall improve the campus for every student.
Leaders of Jewish organizations on campus, such as MU Chabad Director Rabbi Avraham Lapine and Mizzou Hillel Executive Director Jeanne Snodgrass, have shared their concern about the rise in anti-Semitism on campus.
“The Nazi symbol is so hurtful to the Jewish community because it hearkens back to the very darkest moments in our history,” Lapine said in previous Maneater article. “It is viewed as an attempt to make Jewish students unwelcome or unsafe at a university which is rightfully known for its tolerance and diversity.”