Jewish students say college isn’t doing enough after antisemitic incidents on campus

DAVIDSON, N.C. — Davidson College is condemning a photo circulating on social media that shows racist and antisemitic graffiti on school grounds.

In a statement Wednesday, a representative for the college said the graffiti was found on the blackboard of an outdoor classroom.

“This act is threatening and an affront to the sense of community that binds us,” the statement reads. “At Davidson, all of us are called to honor the dignity and worth of every person. We value religious and racial diversity and inclusion, while we deplore racism and bigotry and advocate for a more just world.”

No one knows who is responsible, but it was the talk of the campus.

“Sadly, it’s kind of a reflection of … where the world is today,” said Ellie Johnson, a student.

Johnson said the images disturbed her.

“Hate still exists, sadly,” Johnson said.

Students said the graffiti was on the blackboard over the weekend.

“This was very eye-opening to see that even in our seemingly inclusive community, that terrible things like this can happen,” said Lexie Vonderluft, a student. “I was horrified by the caricature drawings of the Jewish and Black people on the blackboard and I was shocked to see the slurs written there for anyone to see in that outdoor classroom.”

The school stressed that its community should feel safe and supported on campus.

“Even though we know that racism and bigotry exist in our society, it is still shocking and distressing when they show up on campus in such a bold and aggressive way and with messages of violence,” the statement says. “This violation wounds people we love and value. We all need to recognize and respect their pain. We need to speak up to defend and support them and our values as a community.”

The school vowed to support community members who feel targeted and said Davidson police are investigating. Officers are also increasing their presence to ensure the safety of students and staff, the school said.

Students are supporting each other after the discovery.

“I reached out two both of my Jewish friends and checked in on them and I think many people did that just on a personal level,” said Carolina Thompson, a student.

Davidson College’s Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion, Chaplain’s Office and Counseling teams are available for students who need support. The school also encouraged employees to contact the Employee Assistance Program.

“Thank you for your support of each other,” the statement concludes.

“This hate crime is not an isolated incident”

A large group of Jewish students at Davidson College released a statement regarding this incident saying, “this hate crime is not an isolated incident. We’re not surprised by it. The administration has not done enough to respond.”

“It’s really disheartening and it’s also scary that this is such a blatant act of antisemitism,” said Nina Worley, a student.

Worley and her friend Isabelle Polgar felt compelled to write a letter about the incident to the administration saying the school’s response doesn’t go far enough.

“The response from the school was very general and sadly lackluster,” Polgar said. “It didn’t address Jewish students. They never reached out to Jewish students.”

The students feel like the school is treating it like an isolated incident. They believe it’s a pattern.

“I think the campus needs to come together and realize this is not an isolated incident antisemitism lives on this campus. Racism lives on this campus,” Worley said.

“As somebody who is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, somebody who went through that experience, I felt that sense of fear in my bones, like I’m never going to be safe on this campus.”

Full statement from the students:

“Dear President Hicks, Dean Rigger, and Dean McCrae,

We’d first like to thank you for sending this message to the Davidson community. It is important that the administration keeps affirming that Davidson is a space for religious, ethnic, and racial minorities. We would also like to express some concerns we have about the statement.

We worry that this response has not recognized the real and persistent history of racism and antisemitism on Davidson’s campus. The statement treats the incident as isolated, ignoring the long history of the exclusion of Jews from Davidson’s faculty and student population. Further, the statement has no mention of the history of antisemitism at Davidson, including the Neo-Nazi incident that occurred on our campus four years ago. We feel that it is wrong and dangerous to treat this weekend’s hate crime as separate from the larger history of Jew-hatred at Davidson. (As Jewish students, we can only write about the impact this has had on our community; we imagine there is a similar frustration among Black students who have also been directly targeted).

We ask that the college recognize the true breadth of the problem so that we can begin an honest conversation about Davidson’s past and about the efforts to make Davidson safe for Jews and other marginalized groups moving forward.

The recent hate crime—whether perpetrated by a Davidson student or not—should spark a proper reckoning. Discussing the incident and learning about the history of racism and antisemitism can equip students with the skills to prevent further hate crimes on our campus, even as antisemitism rises at the national level.

We hope Davidson will respond to this incident with a forceful plan to educate the campus community about the antisemitic and racist tropes found this weekend. We worry that if action is not taken on campus and in the classroom, Davidson risks letting its students graduate into an increasingly Jew-averse world without understanding the complex cultural, religious and historical nature of Jewishness. When the school decides not to contest Neo-Nazi tropes in its classrooms, Davidson becomes an accomplice to hate.

Below, we have listed several action items that Davidson can take to support Jewish students and combat antisemitism.

Provide students with appropriate resources directly after hate crimes occur. Create a space for the community to reflect, heal, and express their needs. Provide educational resources from antisemitism experts, organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, and regional Holocaust museums.

Develop an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program at Davidson. A classroom-based approach must be the cornerstone of the effort to make Davidson a safe space for Jewish students.

Establish a permanent space for Jewish students on campus.

Allow Jewish students and other religious minorities to have access to the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion’s resources. The Center can provide Jewish students with the professional support and bias education & response resources they need to deal with the antisemitism they encounter in their daily lives.

Consult Jewish students and other groups targeted by hate speech, vandalism, or other discrimination immediately following an incident. Prioritize their feedback and concerns in the College’s response.

We hope that in the coming days there will be a more active effort to support the communities targeted by this incident. There has been, to our knowledge, no effort to specifically reach out to Jewish students on campus.

In this time of uncertainty, Davidson’s Jewish community appreciates your eagerness to stamp out hate. We look forward to working together toward robust and permanent change on our campus.

Thank you for your careful attention.”

Channel 9 has reached out to Davidson College for a response to these allegations. We are waiting to hear back.

CMS encourages parents to talk to children about posting on social media

Also on Wednesday, officials with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sent a message to parents about a video on social media involving an Ardrey Kell High School student.

The district couldn’t talk about the video, but officials asked families to take some time to speak with their children about things they say, record and share on social media.

They have the potential to negatively impact their peers, the school, and their own well-being.

The district also said it doesn’t condone students responding with their own posts or threats.

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