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March 23, 2015

Student discovers anti-Semitic defacement on campus

By Melanie Morris

Hateful and emotionally charged graffiti was found in the Main Classroom building on Feb. 10 and reported by a student to Cleveland State University police on Feb. 24.

The student, Jennifer Joseph, noticed a swastika drawn on a wall and a windowsill on the fourth floor of the building. Israel on the world map on the first floor was also defaced.

Cleveland State immediately released a statement to the students, faculty and staff, describing the incident as a hate crime.

“Behavior like this seriously diminishes a learning environment and a campus community that is a source of pride,” President Ronald Berkman said in the statement. “Each of us has an individual responsibility to promote a culture that is based on respect, civility, diversity and inclusion.”

The Faculty Senate also released a statement regarding the incident.

“The perpetrators of this disgusting act have attacked our community and rejected the values of our university,” President of the Senate Nigamanth Sridhar said in the statement. “We want to reassure our students that we will always be committed to their safety and their freedom to learn in tolerant and respectful surroundings.”

Jill Ross, the Cleveland Metro director for the Cleveland Hillel Foundation, and Adena Muskin, a program associate for the foundation, accompanied Joseph to file the police report to support her, as she went to the group first before going to the police.

The Cleveland Hillel Foundation is where Jewish students who attend 12 colleges around Cleveland can celebrate their Judaism and connect with other students. They host an array of events and also provide many different student programs.

Jordan Rothkopf, the interim executive director for the foundation, said communication between the group and Cleveland State has been strong since the incident and he respects the way the school has reacted.

“In general, we feel really supported by the school,” Rothkopf said. “So far, we’re very pleased with what the school has done.”

The Jewish Law Student Association, a group on campus dedicated to furthering the religious, social and educational needs of law students under any branch of Judaism, firmly sees this incident as a hate crime clearly intended to make a negative statement about Jews.

“My personal outlook is one of sadness,” Ari Goldstein, president of the JLSA, said. “I am upset that someone could have so much hatred and ignorance that they believed [this] was an acceptable idea.”

Goldstein said the graffiti was an insult not just to Jews, but to all of the Cleveland State students and staff. He said group meetings regarding the tolerance and history behind the Nazi swastika and the Nazi party itself would be a good response because most people are unaware of the facts and he believes anti-Semitism is fueled by ignorance.

He said that the actions of one individual do not define the Cleveland State community and hatred has no place here. Regardless of what happened, he has never felt more welcome than here at Cleveland State.

“CSU has still been a warm and welcoming atmosphere where I never felt threatened or unsafe due to my religion,” he said. “I still love being a Viking, and one student amidst thousands of bright, open-minded students isn’t going to change that.”

The Cleveland State police are still investigating the matter, according to Kevin Ziegler, director of strategic communications. President Berkman said the perpetrator would be prosecuted if found. If the party is a student, he or she could be expelled. If the party is a faculty member, he or she could be terminated.