The Goucher College community is split this week on how to handle the recent emergence of graffiti on the campus’ Hillel building.
Students returned from Thanksgiving break early last week to find a cross, two crescent moons and a Star of David spray-painted on the outside of the building, along with two messages: “Stop the hate” and, in all capital letters, “F—k White People.” The paint has since been removed.
While some in the Goucher community have chalked the vandalism up to well-intended but out-of-hand activism, some members of the college’s Jewish population say the act targets Jewish students.
“I still contend that I think it was very much purposeful and very much symbolic,” said Goucher sophomore Maxwell Adelstein, who participates in Hillel activities. “Whether or not it was hateful, I think it was basically charging Hillel with hate.”
Adelstein said that even the other students involved with Hillel are divided on whether the markings were meant to make a statement about Hillel students specifically or a simple effort to place a message in a spot many students will see it. The Hillel building is situated in the residential part of the campus.
Though no one has claimed responsibility for the markings, they come among a rush of protests and campus activism concerning Israeli actions in Gaza over the summer and the failure of a grand jury to indict a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Adelstein noted. Earlier this fall, students founded a branch of Students for Justice in Palestine and debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has played out in several op-eds in school publications over the past semester.
“Tensions are running high on campus about a number of important issues facing the nation and our campus: the situation in Ferguson, a union vote, and concern about drugs and sexual misconduct. There have been protests and several instances of graffiti and vandalism,” read a statement released to students on Dec. 2 by Jose Bowen, Goucher College president. “A number of our students feel angry, hurt and afraid. The graffiti above the Hillel patio may not have been directed at Jewish students, but it was still painful for them.”
Kristen Pinheiro, Goucher’s senior director of communications, said the school cleaned the paint off the building as soon as it could and has been looking into the incident. She said school officials have heard from students who are concerned about the appearance of the graffiti, but at this point the administration does not believe those responsible were
attacking Jewish students.
“We have no reason to believe it was in any way targeted toward our Jewish student population,” said
Pinheiro, noting the content of the markings. “It was just foul language in general terms.”
The area where the graffiti appeared is not monitored by cameras and, unless someone comes forward to the administration to claim responsibility or provide information, the case will likely go unsolved, said Pinheiro.