The University of Wisconsin-Madison released a statement on Tuesday regarding the rise of antisemitic incidents on campus over the past few weeks. The university condemned antisemitism, adding that UW is committed to creating a campus where everyone feels included, valued and safe.
“We are working to support all community members and increasing our educational efforts to prevent bias incidents from happening in the future,” the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor and Chief Diversity Officer LaVar Charleston said in a statement.
A swastika etched into a community bathroom stall in the Sellery residence hall, antisemitic slurs yelled at a student on Langdon Street and statements from an individual who said they had been harassed for “looking Jewish” are among the incidents that have been reported recently by members of the campus community.
A dorm resident found the swastika drawing on the bathroom stall on March 3 and reported it to their house fellow, according to Brendon Dybdahl, the Director of Marketing and Communications at University Housing. Housing staff removed the symbol the next morning and sent notices to residents, offering them support from the Residence staff life.
“UW-Madison recognizes the profound impact that incidents which target specific identities can have; this impact often extends well beyond the intended individual(s) and group. We ask that you intervene when you can and report incidents,”Associate Director for Residence Life Celda Wang wrote in the email to Sellery residents. “UW-Madison and University Housing respond to all bias incidents and may pursue disciplinary action if the behavior violates university policy.”
UW Housing is taking action to prevent similar incidents from happening again on campus.
“Actions like this are unacceptable and go against the values of our campus and University Housing,” Dybdahl told the Cardinal. “We take whatever steps possible in addressing bias incidents in our residence halls, to foster an environment where everyone feels safe, welcome and able to thrive.”
The incident is currently being investigated by UWPD, according to Dybdahl.
Although antisemitism will not be tolerated on campus, UW-Hillel CEO Greg Steinberger believes there will still be an increase in similar instances over the next few years.
“The Milwaukee Jewish Community Council tracks acts of antisemitism in the state and the 2021 audit will be out soon. We will not be surprised if we again see a year over year increase of antisemitism acts in Wisconsin,” he said.
Steinberger noted that the The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has also maintained an annual antisemitism audit since 1979 and tracks individual instants of anti-Jewish vandalism, harassment and assault. The league has recorded a 60% increase of antisemitic incidents over the past five years.
“This year's audit will be out sometime this spring and we anticipate that 2021 will turn out to be another high case year,” Steinberger stated.
UW-Madison urges anyone who witnesses or experiences incidents to issue a report as soon as possible.