The swastika drawn last week in the men’s restroom of the Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies in the Merrick Building is a sickening reminder of how far we still have to come towards tolerance and understanding the differences of our fellow students.
The hooked cross hearkens to a time of atrocity and painful memories. Why someone would feel the need to leave this mark on a university building is unfathomable. It is symbolic of hate, violence and intimidation, values that should not be tolerated or promoted at the University of Miami.
One of the most disturbing parts of this act is that whomever left the marking walks among us. It could be a fellow student, university employee, professor or even a member of the Coral Gables community since our campus is generally open to the public. Hopefully, with the large number of security cameras monitoring the campus, the perpetrator will be identified.
This is not an issue on our campus alone. In early April, a swastika was painted on Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi’s newly built fraternity house at the University of Florida. In recent years, incidents occurred on college campuses across the country, including the University of Richmond and Columbia University.
While it is offensive and deplorable, the drawing of the swastika could also be considered an exercise of free speech. The First Amendment entitles everyone, even neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic groups, to express their views. For example, this fall Bradley Smith, a Holocaust denier who questions the use of gas chambers in killing much of Europe’s Jewish population, solicited ads to student newspapers nationwide. Smith appropriately expresses his ideas and it is up to the individual newspapers to decide whether or not to run the ads. The Harvard Crimson actually did print this ad, although they later claimed it was accidental.
Freedom of speech is an important guarantee of the First Amendment, allowing those in the U.S. to express their beliefs. However there is a proper time, place and manner to do so. The swastika on campus was drawn anonymously in a location that was chosen specifically to target the university’s Jewish population, and destroyed school property. If this person really wanted to express their views, they would do so in a more appropriate, open and peaceful manner, not one intended to intimidate.