Bias-Related Vandalism Targets Religious Groups

FILE PHOTO: isABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA Three bias related incidents have been reported to the university this week, including the drawing of swastikas in two elevators in Village C West.

FILE PHOTO: isABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA
Three bias related incidents have been reported to the university this week, including the drawing of swastikas in two elevators in Village C West.

The Georgetown University Police Department and university officials are investigating graffiti of swastikas in Village C West and the removal of Muslim and Hindu flyers from chaplain-in-residence bulletin boards earlier this week as bias-related incidents.

VCW resident Sarah Hirshorn (COL ’20) said she discovered one of the two swastikas scratched into the interior walls of an elevator Tuesday morning. She first reported the incident to the building’s community director, Kenny Steelman, and later filed a bias report at his suggestion.

“I did not feel attacked or unsafe, more just uncomfortable as a Jewish student that there was someone who lived in my building, or took it upon themselves to enter my building, to go out of their way to make a resident feel uncomfortable,” Hirshorn wrote in an email to The Hoya.

GUPD Chief Jay Gruber said the vandalism was reported to the department at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The swastikas were painted over by Wednesday morning.

Gruber said GUPD is actively investigating the anti-Semitic vandalism and had no suspects as of last night. Gruber declined to comment on what the investigation entails.

“We generally do not discuss or disclose our investigative techniques or methods,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry Rev. Howard Gray and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson informed the university community about the incidents in an email Wednesday.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we are committed to fostering a community that is welcoming to people of all faiths and that values understanding, tolerance, inclusion and respect. Acts of hate are unacceptable and antithetical to the values of our community,” Gray and Olson wrote.

Two separate bias reports were also filed regarding incidents of Muslim and Hindu flyers being ripped down and vandalized from chaplain-in-residence bulletin boards, according to Gray and Olson’s email.
The bias reports were filed through the university’s anonymous online bias reporting system. Gruber could not confirm details of the timing and location of these incidents, as they were not reported to GUPD.

According to New South Hall’s Chaplain-in-Residence Brahmachari Vrajvihari Sharan, one of the hall’s bulletin boards was vandalized.

“I returned from a trip to London over spring break to find that the Muslim and Hindu flyers were missing from my Chaplain-in-Residence display,” Sharan wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I urge the perpetrators and those who would trivialize such deplorable acts to examine whether these actions will better or worsen the state of our society.”

Georgetown University Student Association Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18) said GUSA is concerned by any bias-related incident.

“We are deeply concerned by the swastika sign and other bias-related incidents that have recently come to light,” Andino wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GUSA stands by any Hoyas that have been personally attacked through these hate incidents, whether it be a member of the Jewish, Muslim, Black, Hindu, Latinx, or LGBTQ community.”

Andino and Mack plan to meet with Gruber tonight to discuss how to improve student safety and prevent future vandalism.

Director for Jewish Life Rabbi Rachel Gartner condemned the incidents.

“Cowardly expressions of hate like the ones we’ve been seeing deserve no less than our disdain, condemnation, and investigation,” Gartner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I am proud of how seriously and expertly the university has been handling them, and how sensitively university staff and officials have been reaching out to those targeted. And my heart is warmed and encouraged by the ways students are reaching out to one another as well.”

In light of the incidents, Gartner called on members of the community to self-examine and reflect on their own implicit biases.

“At the same time, as we stand together against such vivid and visible expressions of hatred, my hope is that we also continue to look inward into the unexamined or implicit biases that also may be operative in each of us, and are communicated in more subtle and insipid ways,” Gartner wrote.

Director for Muslim Life Imam Yahya Hendi said members of the Georgetown community should speak out against hateful acts.

“Our campus is a beautiful one, and has no room for hate or exclusivity,” Hendi said. “My Muslim tradition teaches us to celebrate diversity, care for our neighbors and coexist with mutual respect and understanding. Hence, I reject all forms of hate directed at any Hoya, and call on us to treat any attack on one as an attack on all.”

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