Vanderbilt University's Library Defaced With Anti-Semitic Slurs

Police at Vanderbilt University discovered anti-Semitic graffiti at the university’s library on April 16. A swastika and anti-Semitic comments were initially found by a student on a desk, Vanderbilt University said in a statement. The anti-Semitic graffiti was removed, and Vanderbilt University Police launched an investigation to determine who defaced the library and when the vandalism occurred. The university said that it does not tolerate bigotry or discrimination.

“As we have stated previously, Vanderbilt University is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. We wholeheartedly reject anti-Semitism and its symbols, and the abhorrent ideology associated with this act of vandalism has no place on our campus,” the university said in its statement. It continued: “Vanderbilt does not tolerate language or actions that are bigoted or intended to intimidate anyone in our community. We remain deeply committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.”

Vanderbilt University Police will share information from its investigation with the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Tennessee Fusion Center, and the FBI. Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southeast office (ADL), applauded Vanderbilt University for its response to the hateful and “concerning" incident. Padilla-Goodman told The North Star that universities do not always respond appropriately. The incident at Vanderbilt is part of a growing trend of anti-Semitic incidents happening in the United States, Padilla-Goodman said. The ADL’s annual audit found that there was an 89 percent increase of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses in 2017 alone.

Padilla-Goodman said 2017 was the first time since at least 2010 that the ADL found at least one incident in every state. These incidents were categorized as assault, harassment, or vandalism. While the ADL found a slight decrease in incidents of assault that year, it saw a “huge” rise in harassment and vandalism. Recorded incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism rose from 510 incidents to 952 between 2016 and 2017, the ADL found. Incidents of harassment also increased dramatically, from 721 in 2016 to more than 1,000 the following year. Padilla-Goodman noted that it was hard to “not recognize the decisive and hateful” environment the country finds itself in, which emboldens people to commit acts of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry. “There’s a lack of leadership at all levels,” she said, noting divisive comments made by President Donald Trump and others in government.

There were a number of anti-Semitic incidents involving swastikas on college campuses in the last year. In mid-November 2018, three swastikas were reported at Cornell University. Two were found in the dorms and a third near a dining hall, The Cornell Daily Sun reported.

The university quickly denounced the acts; Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi reaffirmed the university’s support for “the Jewish members of our community who have faced the impact of anti-Semitism nationally and, unfortunately, now locally as well.”

Days later, the New York Police Department launched an investigation into a possible hate crime when a Columbia University professor’s office was vandalized with two swastikas and a derogatory word toward Jewish people, CNN reported. The two swastikas were spray-painted in red in the walls of the office of Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, who is Jewish.

In this latest act of anti-Semitism, Vanderbilt University warned that anyone found responsible “would be subject to respective immediate disciplinary procedures.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.