Many students are upset over a slew of anti-Semitic graffiti incidents that have recently occurred on the college’s campus.
Several students have come forward with pictures of pro-Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti that were drawn on classroom desks and bathroom and hallway walls.
“I walk into the bathroom and I see a swastika etched on the wall. Being a Jew, it really offended me so I scratched it off,” QC senior Jeffery Smulvitz said. “When I came back less than a week later, someone had redrawn it on the wall.”
Germany’s Nazi Party adopted the swastika as its symbol in the 1920s and it continues to offend Jews as a reminder of oppression.
Pedro Pineiro, QC’s head of security and public safety, said graffiti is not an uncommon occurrence on campus.
“From time to time members of the college community report all kinds of graffiti, found in different places, anonymously throughout the campus,” Pineiro said . “Our protocol is to file a report and immediately notify Buildings and Grounds and have it removed.”
Pineiro also said that graffiti is a class A misdemeanor.
When asked what was being done to stop further incidents, the head of public safety responded:
“We have met with the Building and Grounds custodial and maintenance staff and have asked
their help in trying to ID suspects. We have, at times, when a pattern is observed, deployed
Public Safety staff in civilian clothes in order to apprehend the persons responsible.”
Freshman Jonathan Kirshblum was surprised these incidents would occur at Queens College.
“You would think that in a college with such a diverse student body people would be more sensitive and accepting toward other students of different cultural backgrounds,” said Kirshblum, who had found anti-Semitic carvings on his desk. “It just bothers me to think I might be in a class with people who hate me for who I am.”
More than a quarter of QC students are Jewish, according a study by the Queens College Hillel, the Center for Jewish life on campus.
Hillel’s executive director Uri Cohen seemed unfazed by these incidents.
“It is sad to hear that there are people who are so filled with hate that they feel it necessary to invoke atrocities of the worst kind in our community,” Cohen said. “Fortunately, the number of people moved to take these actions on our campus is negligible, so I don’t worry about it too much. This incident is sad, but pretty irrelevant overall, in my view.”
Cohen believes behavior like this can be resolved.
“Behavior like this comes from ignorance. The work that Queens College does to foster diversity and interaction between different groups so that they get to learn that we’re really all pretty similar with differences worth celebrating is the most important we can do,” said Cohen.
“Between the work of the Student Association, Student Life, the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Hillel, MSA, Newman Center, and others, there are lots of chances for people to learn about ‘the other.’”
These experiences should, Cohen said, help people overcome stereotypes, misunderstandings and ignorance.
Further investigation found that Jews aren’t the only ones being targeted in bathroom vandalism.
Two cases of anti-gay graffiti were also reportedly discovered in bathroom stalls around campus.
“Hateful and angry voices such as these will not deter us from continuing to build a peaceful and constructive campus community for all,” Cohen said.