Staff Editorial: University fails to adequately address targeted act of hate, again

Administration’s delayed, deflective response to antisemitic graffiti is unacceptable

Staff Editorial: University fails to adequately address targeted act of hate, again


American University does not have control over individual acts of hate. It cannot effectively identify and weed out every person intending to do hateful things on our campus. 

The University does, however, have control over its response to egregious incidents like the antisemitic graffiti found in a bathroom on Sept. 7. It is unclear why responses by the University to painful events for members of the AU community continue to be disappointing.

The antisemitic graffiti was found on Sept. 7 and The Eagle reported the story on Sept. 10. The University offered no response or reaction until Sept. 13, when it sent an email that identified the incident as “possible antisemitic graffiti.” The failure to even acknowledge what happened is indicative of an administration more concerned with how it's perceived than how it can best support its students. This isn’t a public relations problem — students were and continue to be harmed by the antisemitic vandalism. 

After the discovery of graffiti that directly targets a group of people on campus, why is the decision of the University to question its legitimacy and churn out an email that looks like it was crafted by a public relations firm? Students are directly impacted by events like these; it makes people feel unsafe. A clinical and carefully measured response provides little comfort to anyone, especially those directly impacted by the antisemitic images. It can be easily assumed that the University itself did not have a hand in leaving hateful graffiti, but the reason our administration chose to respond with defensiveness and a deflection of blame remains unclear. 

AU has been frequently ranked as one of the most liberal schools in the country, something that is discussed as a point of pride throughout the community. How can we claim and uphold this title if the University can’t offer the most basic level of empathy and support in the face of such obviously hateful actions? 

Directing students to Hillel, an organization primarily made up of and led by students, is not enough. Students should not be forced to rely on each other during a difficult time like this. The University should offer professional resources and transparency in their investigation of the incident. The graffiti was found around the time of two high holidays on the Jewish calendar, which adds unsettling context as students grapple with whether the timing was intentional. The best thing the University can do for its students and its image is to provide supportive resources. At the bare minimum, the hate and the suffering it caused should be acknowledged outright. 

The University created AUx2 to discuss “race, social identity, and structures of power.” A class cannot “solve” the various issues around these subjects and it shouldn’t be expected to. Still, if the University wants its freshmen to have complex discussions about these identity-based issues, it should formally include antisemitism in the AUx2 curriculum. The class shouldn’t have to wait for a student to bring this up for it to get discussed. The University needs to encompass the various ways in which identities are targeted.

Events that make different groups in the AU community feel unsafe happen nationally and on campus at an unfortunately regular rate. Students should not have to painstakingly wait for their suffering to be legitimized by the administration or ask for help each time. The University needs to start reacting first and foremost with empathy. 

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