Widely interpreted as an international hate symbol of white supremacy, the swastika has made its way back to the walls of the university.
On March 12, President Donna Shalala issued an e-mail to the university community stating that swastikas have been sighted on four separate occasions on March 2, 10 and 11 at Hecht Residential College in both the Pentland tower elevators and the sixth floor hallway and bathrooms.
“Defacing university property with a swastika symbol is not only a crime,” she wrote in the e-mail. “It is a hate crime and a deplorable attack on our community.”
UMPD has opened an investigation into the matter, but has yet to name any suspects.
“[We are] vigorously investigating the incident and we take acts that are perceived as hate crimes very seriously, as does the criminal justice system,” wrote Police Chief Rivero in an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane. “We will get to the bottom of this one way or another, but would rather have those involved come forward on their own as soon as possible.”
According to sophomore Ryan Faulstich, a student who resides on the floor, the swastika was drawn in marker and called the floor’s resident assistant “a Nazi.” However, he doubts that the symbol was drawn out of a spirit of anti-Semitism.
“Contrary to how the news and other sources have made it out, [it]was not put in an anti-Semitic manner,” he wrote, in an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane. “In other words, it wasn’t meant to be against Jews in the context it was drawn, although obviously the symbol is one that carries a strong message of hatred along with it and holds no place to be drawn anywhere especially at UM.”
The floor’s RA is not Jewish.
A floor meeting was held last night to discuss the incident with the residents, and to discuss the conduct of what had happened on the floor.
“It had nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” said Ricardo Hall, dean of students. “I met with the guys on the floor and I told them: it’s not you making a joke, it’s about the bad reflection of students at the University of Miami.”
Possible repercussions for the incident may include displacement from Hecht Residential College, as well as other, more severe punishments after an evaluation by Hall.
Channel 7 WSVN, a local news station, reported on the incidents after Shalala’s March 12 e-mail. In the story, they quoted Helby Etter, a UM student.
“I mean it’s really scary. It’s especially scary because I’m Jewish,” she said.
Faulstich said that Channel 7’s representation of the incident was exaggerated.
“The media such as Channel 7 News has blown this largely out of proportion to make it sound far worse than it really is,” he said.
Hall said there is little reason to believe that these incidents are tied in any way to early swastika sightings at the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies in the Merrick Building. On Oct. 27, a swastika had been discovered in one of the men’s rooms in the building.
UMPD never opened an investigation because students wanted to clean the swastika immediately. The swastika had been found directly in front of the meeting and prayer location for the Muslim Students Association.
Ramon Galiana may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.