Offensive vandalism found in Integrated Learning Center

By Fitzgerald Pucci

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

A crudely-carved swastika was found etched into the side of a men’s bathroom stall on the fourth floor of the Integrated Learning Center, which is mutually shared by the journalism, linguistics and film studies departments.

The swastika, which measured roughly 10 inches in diameter, was initially found by a student on Feb. 2, according to journalism lecturer Razvan Sibii. The incident was then reported to UMass Police shortly after, and a investigation was launched.

The stall remained vandalized until midday Thursday, when a piece of sheet metal was screwed into the stall to cover the swastika. It was previously covered with gray duct tape, and had remained in the bathroom for more than a week.

According to UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, the incident is under investigation and there is no suspect at this time. Blaguszewski said the bathroom is currently locked as of 3 p.m today.

An email to the campus community from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy addressed the carving of the symbol.

“I am saddened and angry to share with you that a swastika was recently discovered etched into a bathroom stall in the Integrative Learning Center,” he wrote.

“This sort of cowardly act of hatred and intimidation is unacceptable and inconsistent with our campus values of tolerance and inclusion. When this heinous symbol was discovered, the UMass Police Department launched an investigation, which is now under way, and the stall was locked and placed out of service.”

Kathy Forde, chair of the journalism department, had called on the University to “forcibly condemn” the action.

“It’s hate speech,” she said in an interview Thursday morning. “It’s worse than other types of vandalism, and it’s something I don’t want anywhere near the journalism department.”

According to Blaguszewski, the University covered the graffiti with tape following reports of the incident, the individual stall was locked from the inside and the outside of the stall was sealed off with duct tape. The bathroom was even briefly locked, but was later re-opened.

Forde, who was displeased with the condition of the stall as of Thursday morning, said the journalism department had requested the bathroom remain locked until the the stall was fixed.

“I’m not happy with the duct tape solution,” Forde said. “It’s an inappropriate solution that invites people to take a look at it.”

Karen Podorefsky, a recent UMass graduate and former Collegian columnist who lived in the Hillel House as an active member of the organization, was upset with the vandalism. She said its difficult to “get to the bottom” of finding who is responsible.

“If it happens again, something needs to be done,” she said.

Journalism student Andrew Kratchowil, who saw the symbol the day it was carved into the stall, said it was very concerning to see.

“It’s actually personally insulting that someone came in and graffiti’s our space,” he said. “Our department is very welcoming.”

The incident was reported the same day that University of Massachusetts student Jeremy Tibbetts published a column in the Daily Collegian criticizing the University for its response to an incident in December, when photos circulated on the UMass Snapchat story of three students playing “Nazis vs. Jews” beer pong.

Tibbetts argued the game was indicative of a nature of anti-Semitism on campus. In the photos, there is a picture of a swastika on one side of the beer pong table, and a Star of David on the other.

As of Thursday afternoon, UMass Police did not respond to interview requests. Subbaswamy wrote in his email that it’s “crucial” bias-related incidents be reported to the University.

“I am very proud of the long tradition of social justice and activism on our campus,” he wrote.  “However, the recent act of hatred in the ILC restroom serves as a reminder that we must stay focused on campus issues of diversity, inclusion and equity, while fostering a campus community where everyone feels safe and the exchange of divergent views is encouraged.

Mark Chiarelli contributed to this report. Fitzgerald Pucci can be reached at [email protected]