Graffiti left in bathroom stall. Photo: Original source unknown. Received via Hillel.

Queens College Tackles Slew of Antisemitic Graffiti Found in Campus Bathrooms

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A wave of antisemitic graffiti was found in bathrooms on campus in late March and early April, prompting joint action between Queens College and Hillel to address antisemitism and foster interfaith dialogue on campus.

Discovered on March 20th, the first instances of graffiti featured statements like “You better start hiding, Jews” and “Israelis, I am coming after you.” The latter message appeared to be signed by “Hitler 2.”

The NYPD is currently investigating the instances of graffiti, one of which has been classified as a hate crime and the other as criminal mischief, according to President Frank Wu via email. The perpetrators of the vandalism are not known. It has been removed, according to President Wu.

QC Hillel Executive Director Jenna Citron Schwab reported students sending photos of graffiti to her via WhatsApp late in the evening on March 20th.

The following morning, President Wu sent an email to the college community reporting the discovery of “offensive antisemitic” graffiti in bathrooms on campus and rebuking “religious intolerance, racism, sexism, and bigotry of any kind.”

Later that day, Citron Schwab sent a message to the Hillel community expressing grievances regarding the president’s email, writing, “We are calling on Queen College’s leadership to unequivocally condemn this vile act of hatred and call it what it is — antisemitism. Simply put: to fight antisemitism, you must be able to name antisemitism, which President Wu did not do in his statement today.”

President Wu sent an update to his original email on March 22nd heeding towards Citron Schwab’s request, stating, “We call out the specific nature of these forms of prejudice as antisemitism, even while we embrace the general values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

In a statement to The Knight News, Citron Schwab noted the impact of such graffiti on the Jewish student body at QC. “Our students are incredibly resilient,” she said. “But instances like the graffiti will begin to chip away at their resiliency if not addressed properly.”

To help address antisemitism on campus, on March 28th, Citron Schwab and President Wu announced a joint action program between the college and Hillel in a statement that detailed future plans for assessing the climate of antisemitism on campus and building bridges between various student religious groups on campus.

The joint action plan promised that a “working group” will be formed to address antisemitism on campus based on the results of surveys conducted at QC on behalf of Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) and after the completion of student focus groups.

The plan emphasized fostering cooperation between various faith groups on the second floor of the Student Union — which is home to Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, and three student clubs representing different Christian denominations — by creating “an advisory group composed of the lead professionals on the floor.”

The plan also outlined intentions for “increased security measures” on the second floor and increasing “safety protocols for campus events.”

On the evening that the plan was announced, President Wu addressed the local Jewish community on the state of Jewish life at QC in an event organized by New York State Assemblymember Sam Berger.

The event was held at Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and featured a panel of community members involved in QC Jewish life, including Citron Schwab, Rabbi Shaul Wertheimer of Chabad at QC, and Dr. Arnold Frankel, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at QC.

At the event, President Wu emphasized his joint action plan with Hillel and added that the content of the clubs’ bulletin boards on the second floor would be monitored for hateful content. “We historically haven’t had good rules,” he said regarding the bulletin boards. “One of the things that I have asked to be done is photographs are now taken daily of the entire second floor of the Student Union. It’s not in a discriminatory way. All the walls are photographed and sent to me to take a look at.”

President Wu also highlighted the importance of protecting free speech on campus, distinguishing it from speech that directly calls for violence against a particular group and remarking that “it has to cross that line” for the administration to censor it.

In addition to the protocols outlined in the joint action plan, President Wu emphasized the recent appointment of Imam Mohammed F. Biwas, who has been invited to work with Jerima DeWese, QC’s chief diversity officer and dean of diversity, on interfaith dialogue and activities.

In a separate statement to The Knight News, DeWese added that such dialogue will take place during QC’s second annual Diversity Week, from April 15th-19th, with special time dedicated to addressing antisemitism.

As all of these efforts begin to roll out, QC continues to face challenges with antisemitic graffiti. On April 3, two weeks after the aforementioned incident, President Wu announced a second instance of “abhorrent antisemitic” graffiti in a bathroom on campus, which has been classified as criminal mischief by the NYPD and since removed, he said via email. The contents of the graffiti, as well as the perpetrators, are unknown.

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