With swastikas drawn around Columbia University earlier this month, and numerous hate crimes occurring on other college campuses this semester, the University of Miami appeared to be unscathed – until three weeks ago.
On Nov. 6, members of the Muslim Student Association came to their usual meeting place, building 21-Q in the Apartment Area, and found it desecrated. Someone had left feces on the front steps of the student’s place of meeting and prayer.
“We are considering this a hate crime because there are bathrooms around the area,” said Omar Howeedy, vice president of the Muslim Students Association. “I don’t think anyone would want to do that with a good intent.”
The students removed the feces from their meeting place immediately because “we always keep it clean out of respect,” Howeedy said. Though the students did not file a police report, they met last week with Officer John Tighe of the Coral Gables Police Department to discuss the case.
“He told us that with the evidence gone there was nothing he could do,” said Moiez Tapia, adviser to MUSA.
Although the police may not be able to investigate this particular event, the MUSA executive board plans to e-mail President Donna E. Shalala detailing the event. Their goal in sending the e-mail is to raise awareness on campus that intolerance is still alive and among us.
Dean of Students Ricardo Hall said that if any individual is found guilty, he or she may be suspended or expelled.
“My office and I take these types of incidents very seriously,” Hall said. “It is disrespectful, disgusting and uncalled for in a college campus and anywhere else.”
Howeedy said he thinks the incident may have occurred as a result of the recent Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which began Oct. 22. The week of events “highlighted the threat from the Islamic jihad, and the oppression of Muslim women,” according to the Web site terrorismawareness.org.
Although there have been no documented hate crimes on campus this semester, someone shouted, “Go home, you Islamic terrorist” to a female Muslim student in 2001, which spurred media attention and a mass e-mail to Arab and Muslim students from Shalala. The e-mail said, “You deserve our respect, and you deserve to feel safe.”
Members of the MUSA hope to use the most recent incident as a way to reach out to the UM community and encourage students to express their opinions in a respectful manner.
“It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people continue to behave this way,” Tapia said. “Tolerance is something every religion today preaches and supports, including Islam.”
Lilliam Albizu-Campos may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hate Crimes Nationwide
A drawing of a swastika was found on a professor’s office door at Columbia University on Nov. 1.
Another two swastikas were scratched into a computer lab and a bathroom stall at St. Cloud State on Nov. 18.
A noose was found hanging outside an African-American professor’s office at Teachers College, the nation’s top-ranked education school, on Oct. 9.
Several other nooses were found attached to a T-shirt display denouncing intolerance at the Cal State Fullerton campus on Nov. 16.
At Amherst College, five Hampshire College students who left a gay party were allegedly called names, threatened and spit at on Nov. 10.