The latest act of antisemitic vandalism on American University’s campus has magnified the disconnect between AU administration and the broader AU community in what’s determined to be an appropriate response to threats against marginalized communities. How the University plans to move forward leaves us to hope that they aren’t led astray by maintaining public image through impartiality.
The Eagle strongly condemns all forms of antisemitism and bigotry and recognizes the distress that this incident has placed onto many Jewish students during Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year in the Jewish religion. This is the second occurance of antisemitic vandalism in the span of a year, with the first also taking place in Anderson Hall during Rosh Hashanah.
With the University initially making a faulty move last fall in labeling this form of hate speech as “possible” antisemitism and the antisemitic vandalism being a repeated incident, it brings us to question the University’s handling of the first incident. What external partners, in reference to President Burwell’s Sept. 26 email, are they engaging with? What do their efforts to combat antisemitism look like as a result of the incident? With the University shifting responsibility onto the AU community to take on their own forms of care, Jewish students are on their own to figure out their own safety.
Both incidents of vandalism occurring within the freshman residence halls calls into question the efficiency of the AUx programming that’s required for first-year students. In the AUx2 course, students are expected to examine race and racism in the context of European settler-colonialism and cultural efforts led by historically marginalized communities, according to the course overview.
What’s lacking in these anti-racist principles, however, is the exclusion of certain forms of white supremacy that aren’t in relation to the enslavement of Black Americans. If AU is placing students into a mandatory course that explores systems of oppression, why not address the issue that they seem to be facing yearly? The absence of speaking about antisemitism and Jewish cultural traditions leaves open gaps in students’ understanding on what’s considered discriminatory, thus heightening the chance of marginalized students facing the consequences of someone else’s ignorance.
We say that progress is the University recognizing these incidents as examples of antisemitism, but the bar should not be this low. Altering the wording in University email communications after facing national pressure does not regard one as a progressive hero. The Eagle Editorial Board strongly advises the AU administration to show a basic level of empathy for Jewish students and publicly reaffirm their commitment to battling antisemitism and providing a level of transparency by giving updates on that work. To combat possible ignorance surrounding antisemitism, it’s time for the University to incorporate teachings on antisemitism into AUx course programming and foster community-wide discussions on formulating a campus free of antisemitism and bigotry.
Lastly, it’s imperative that the University establishes a long-time partnership with Jewish affinity organizations to ensure that these conversations are ongoing, rather than a clever PR move. Now that the University has met the low bar of legitimizing the pain of Jewish students, we still await for University communications that are based in empathy, not neutralism.