36 organizations send letter to Loftin about antisemitic incident
COLUMBIA - Thirty-six organizations sent MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin a letter concerning the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of Missouri Thursday.
The letter said, "We are writing to you today because we are troubled by reports of a swastika drawn out of feces, which was found on the wall of a bathroom in Gateway Hall on October 24."
The letter applauds Residence Halls Association President William Donley, for releasing a statement strongly condemning the vandalism and labeling it antisemitic and “an act of hate."
Although the RHA president addressed the issue after it occurred, Loftin still has not.
The letter said: "We are dismayed that neither you nor any other MU administrator has yet to publicly address this act of blatant antisemitism, which clearly targets Jewish students and causes them to feel threatened and unsafe."
Chantelle Moghadam is the president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at the University of Missouri and said her organization decided to take part in the letter to push administration to make an official statement on the issue.
"There is not a lot that I feel we as students can do besides bring it to the attention to other students," Moghadam said. "The administration has been unfortunately ineffective in dealing with this."
The letter acknowledged that Loftin quickly issued a vigorous condemnation of another incident in which MU students were harassed by someone using racist and hateful speech.
The letter said: "You also described substantive steps, including educational initiatives, that your administration would be taking to address the problem of racism on your campus. We commend you for your prompt, vigorous and comprehensive response to this act of racism. At the same time, we urge you to treat blatant acts of anti-Jewish bigotry, such as a swastika smeared in feces on a dormitory wall, no less promptly, vigorously and comprehensively."
Hannah Turner is the PR chair for SSI and said she was angry that Loftin and MU's administration failed to address this incident. She sent Loftin an email and tweeted at him before the letter was sent.
He responded in a direct message on Twitter saying:
Turner met with Loftin on Wednesday, and asked him why he still hasn't released an official statement.
"He said that he didn't release a statement because he was told it would interfere with the MUPD investigation," Turner said. "But when I asked him why not release it now, he said that he had it written up but if he released a statement about every racists thing that happened, no one would listen."
The letter sent Thursday morning asked the Chancellor to consider the following recommendations:
We encourage you to demonstrate unequivocally your commitment to protecting Jewish students no less than other students on your campus, by doing the following:
- Swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge that swastika graffiti is an act of antisemitism and will not be tolerated on campus.
- Publicly commit to educating University staff, including campus police, in identifying antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes.
- Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism to fully and accurately identify all future acts of hate toward Jews and draw the distinction between acceptable criticism of Israel’s policies and calls for the destruction of Israel which are unquestionably antisemitic and breed additional antisemitism.
- Allocate resources and publicly commit to educating students about antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.
The 36 organizations that sent the letter to Loftin include: Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi), Alums for Campus Fairness, AMCHA Initiative, American Institute for Jewish Research, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Club Z, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), CUFI on Campus, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Davis Faculty for Israel, Eagles Wings, Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), Fuel For Truth, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Iranian American Jewish Federation, Israel Peace Initiative (IPI), Jewish Law Students Association at UCLA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), National Conference on Jewish Affairs, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Project Genesis, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism, Students Supporting Israel at UCLA, Students Supporting Israel at University of Missouri, The Israel Christian Nexus, The Israel Group, The Israel Institute, Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.), and Zionist Organization of America.
KOMU 8 News reached out Chancellor Loftin for an official statement, but was forwarded the following response he sent to the letter's organizer, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.
Thank you for reaching out to me.
Racism is multi-dimensional and takes many forms. As we have seen over the past two months, racially-motivated speech and actions continue at Mizzou. As you noted our campus experienced another instance of racism and hate, this time directed at our Jewish students. While the students and staff in the residential community responded to this incident, the university did not immediately react to this latest incident in order to give law enforcement time to investigate and possibly identify the perpetrator(s). Their work continues. Our stance has not and will not change—the University of Missouri seeks to be a welcoming and inclusive campus to all students, faculty, staff and visitors. We are committed to mandatory training of our people in inclusion and diversity and will continue to work with all to build the framework necessary to achieve our goal.
I met yesterday with a Jewish student leader who is arranging for me to sit down with three Jewish student groups soon and obtain their input on how best to respond to these events in the future as well as how we can improve the campus climate for all.