UMass to hold event in response to string of anti-Semitic vandalism

By Stuart Foster

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

An event in response to three swastikas found on the University of Massachusetts campus over the last three weeks will be held outside of the Fine Arts Center at 4:15 Friday.

The event, which is called “UMass United Solidarity Gathering” and is hosted by the Student Government Association, will feature UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy as a speaker, and will conclude with a candle lighting to mark the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.

“The idea was to have this event to show that the event does not tolerate these events on campus,” said Jeremy Tibbetts, a junior public health major who was involved with the organizing process and will

Tibbetts said that the idea for the event was discussed in a meeting held between administrators and members of the SGA in reaction to concerns of increased anti-Semitic activity on the UMass campus.

In addition to the swastika reported in the fourth floor of the Integrated Learning Center’s men’s bathroom, two additional swastikas were found on campus: one drawn in snow on a car on University grounds and one reported in a bathroom of the Hasbrouck academic building this morning.

“There have been a few swastikas propping up on campus,” said Tibbetts, who added that he had not felt any anti-Semitic activity on campus his first year at UMass.

However, Tibbetts added that the intention of the event is to respond to growing concerns about social justice and racial/ethnic issues at the University.

“It’s not exclusive to the Jewish community, all acts of hatred have been on the rise,” Tibbetts said.

“It’s really important to highlight that this event is about issues of diversity on our campus,” he added.

The event’s Facebook group, which is hosted by the SGA, wrote “this is not the first time communities have been targets of hate on this campus.”

“The Student Government Association recognizes that these incidents are not isolated from each other, and are representative of the larger campus climate that struggles to be inclusive and accepting to all of it’s members,” it wrote.

On his Facebook page, Subbaswamy invited students to attend to “reaffirm our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.”

After the candle lighting ceremony, those attending the event will be able to walk to the Hillel House, a Jewish spiritual organization at UMass, for a discussion, prayer services and a dinner.

Tibbetts said that as observant Jews are not typically supposed to carry things on the Sabbath, non-Jewish students would have the opportunity to carry candles for them. Subbaswamy is expected to participate in the walk to the Hillel house as well.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster