University News

Anti-Semitic, homophobic vandalism found in Marcy House

DPS investigation underway as students condemn hate crime, gather in solidarity

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Monday, March 21, 2016

Updated March 21, 2016 at 12:01 a.m.

Sam Rubinstein ’17 and Lainie Rowland ’17, a Herald opinions editor, entered their hallway in Marcy House close to 1 a.m. Friday to find anti-Semitic and homophobic messages scrawled on the walls. Upon seeing the graffiti, Rowland contacted the leaders of Beta Rho Pi, a Jewish fraternity housed in Marcy, and Rubinstein contacted Department of Public Safety officials and staff members of Brown/RISD Hillel.

The vandalism in Marcy read “Gay will die” and “Holocaust 2.0” in black marker.

As residents waited for the arrival of officials, members of BRP and Zeta Delta Xi, a co-ed fraternity also housed in Marcy and home to many LGBTQ students, gathered in the hallways and scrubbed the graffiti off the walls.

“One message was directly across from my dorm room, apparently reacting to the Hebrew writing and Mezuzah on my door,” wrote Rubinstein, a member of Zete, the moniker commonly used to refer to Zeta Delta Xi, in an email to The Herald.

The vandalism follows Janet Mock’s cancellation on Wednesday of a campus talk scheduled for today after the circulation of a student-authored petition asking the activist to dissociate her lecture from Hillel. The petition gained 160 signatures.

There is no evidence at this point that the incidence of vandalism in Marcy is related to the cancellation of Mock’s lecture. But a number of students have voiced concerns that the petition calling for Mock to dissociate her lecture from Hillel was anti-Semitic.

“This was a more blatant example (of anti-Semitism) after a more subtle one,” said Jack Bernier ’19, who was at a gathering Thursday among several members of BRP in Marcy. “It reflects poorly on a lot of students here. No one here should be saying stuff like that.”

Marshall Einhorn, executive director of Hillel, went to Marcy to support students early Friday morning while Michelle Dardashti, associate University chaplain, offered support by phone.

Staff members from several University departments, including the Office of Campus Life and Facilities Management, worked with residents of Marcy “to collect information, remove the graffiti and offer support to the students in the residence hall,” wrote Mary Grace Almandrez, interim assistant vice president for campus life and student services and associate dean of the College, and MaryLou McMillan, interim assistant vice president for campus life and student services, in a community-wide email sent Friday morning. The email referred to the event as a “bias incident.”

BRP and Zete released a statement Saturday night saying “We are devastated and outraged that this anti-Semitic and homophobic hate crime — and to be clear, this is a hate crime — occurred in our home.”

President Christina Paxson P’19 also wrote to all community members Friday afternoon to condemn the “hateful instances of homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti vandalism.”

“Public Safety will work with other departments to aggressively investigate, identify the person(s) who committed this hateful act and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Paxson wrote. “Acts of bias such as this, which attempt to demean and threaten people based on religion, sexual orientation, race or other characteristics, harm not only their most immediate victims but are antithetical to the most deeply held values of this University.”

A student at the gathering at Marcy received a call that DPS officers were on their way to the dormitory, Bernier said. About 15 minutes later another call was received. Members of BRP asked everyone to leave the building, saying DPS was searching the entire house because of an incident in Zete, Bernier said.

“The scariest aspect was that there was someone in my living space to project these ideas,” said Rowland, an independent living in Marcy, adding that that the homophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments “are something that you know exists out there, but to see it so tangibly in the space that you live … is shocking.”

“We at Hillel are appalled by the hateful messages on the walls of Marcy House attacking the LGBTQ and Jewish communities,” Einhorn said. “Action and language like that have no place on a college campus or anywhere else.”

The incident was “deeply offensive and violates the most treasured values of this University,” Almandrez and McMillan wrote in the campus-wide email.

Rowland expressed her appreciation that University administrators “reaffirmed that this is obviously a very serious incident and are using all of their resources.”

DPS has commenced a full investigation and “will make every effort to identify the perpetrator(s),” wrote Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, in an email to The Herald. Detectives from the department will interview Marcy residents and other students, he wrote, adding that “alleged perpetrator(s) could face University sanctions and/or criminal charges.”

The acts of vandalism “are symptoms of larger issues, and they will not stop until all instances of hate speech are denounced with the same force and the systems of oppression that support and enable them are dismantled,” BRP’s and Zete’s joint statement read.

An email from the Hillel Student Executive Board, sent to members of the Hillel community and obtained by The Herald, condemned the anti-Semitic and homophobic messages and offered a supportive space to cope with the incident in Hillel Friday afternoon.

The email from the Office of Campus Life also informed students of two other community gatherings providing in-person support earlier in the day Friday.

“I was surprised by the homophobia because, especially on this campus, you wouldn’t expect that as much,” said Sam Greenberg ’19, who attended the gathering in Marcy Thursday. “But there have been incidences of anti-Semitism just recently.”

“It’s a close community, and I feel safe in my dorm, but not so much after this,” said an independent resident of Marcy who wished to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to her safety. “It makes me question what kind of people pass through (the building),” she added.

Rowland was pleased to be surrounded by groups that rallied and condemned the hurtful messages.

“I don’t think the cowardly hate that motivated these events is nearly as strong as the sense of community and strength of the communities they were directed at.”

With additional reporting from Alex Skidmore

  • Aaron Kashtan

    As a Brown alumnus and a brother of Zeta Delta Xi, I am appalled by these events. Zeta Delta Xi is the most tolerant and welcoming environment in which I have ever lived. This vandalism is a black mark on Brown and Zeta Delta Xi’s tradition of openness and acceptance. The persons responsible are a disgrace to the Brown University community. I am glad that the university is treating these events with the seriousness they deserve.

    • Arafat

      But the university is not taking this seriously for if it were it would not have created the environment where this crap takes place. The university turns its head on the anti-Semitic antics of the Students for Justice {sic} in Palestine and the Muslim Student Association both organizations that get away with anti-Semitic words and acts on a regular basis.

      Brown is like so many PC liberal arts colleges who promote organizations that if they had their way would destroy the Jews of Israel and that would likely be just the start.

      In fact, Brown like all PC liberal arts colleges promotes Islam as a religion of peace, compassion and tolerance. This is what passes for reality at Brown. Little wonder events like this one take place with greater and greater frequency.

      • Aaron Kashtan

        I think Islamophobia is just as bad as homophobia and anti-Semitism, and I believe that the attitudes revealed in the above comment are contributing to the problem rather than the solution.

        • BrownAlum

          Excessive divisiveness due to PC identity politics is what is creating this problem. To say a college campus is a rape culture, but to turn a blind eye to a religious environment where suicide bombings slaughtering hundreds of innocent civilians, women, and children is just a part of daily life is hypocrisy of the highest order. You children have your head so far up in the clouds you are incapable of seeing 5 feet past your own feelings and have no idea what is really going on in the rest of the world. If Hitler were alive today running Nazi genocidal death camps you would accuse American intervention of supremacist imperialism.

          • hypocrisy

            Aren’t YOU turning a blind eye yourself ?

          • BrownAlum

            I know that campus “feminists” have taught you that in order for people to believe you and take you seriously all you need to do is make accusations, but in the real world, if you want people to take your claims seriously, usually you have to back them up with some sort of support; things like logic, reason, and facts convince reasonable people. Anecdotes and sob stories will work on weak minded people like crybullies, but mature and responsible people will just ridicule and pity you.

          • Willie Sam

            Unfortunately, this is largely true. Brown has fallen prey to some of worst ideas of the academic left and now has few voices that encourage the civil exchange of ideas and tolerance of disagreement. Instead, student groups demonize each other, believing that they can rectify the evils of the world by making cartoon caricatures of their fellow students. It pains me that at a time when Liberty University manages to have a constructive dialogue with Bernie Sanders, Brown can not somehow manage to bring Ray Kelly, Wendy McElroy, Michael Douglas, or Janet Mock to campus without imploding.

            So what does Brown really stand for anymore? Will it be an institution that people will continue to take seriously or a basket case and a warning of the worst excesses of today’s universities gone amok?

          • Bob

            Took the words right out of my mouth. Liberty (freakin’) University is now more intellectual than Brown! Honestly, I was so impressed with both Bernie Sanders and the Liberty student body during that discussion and, simultaneously, so embarrassed for 80% of the colleges in our country that enroll children rather than adults.

          • herbcaen

            So what does Brown really stand for anymore… it is a sandbox for oversized toddlers, an advanced childcare warehouse

          • 1st Amend.

            Well done. So true.

    • ShadrachSmith

      A black mark for ZDX? Why?
      The Bart Simpson defense is more rational than begging forgiveness for something you didn’t do.

  • matt10023

    Well, what do you expect. Intersectional hatred is alive and well at Brown. Any Jew is a target.

    The students who protested Mock being censored because of her affiliation with Hillel did not bother to parse the difference between being of Jewish faith and being a supporter of Israel (even though the latter is not justification).

    Meanwhile, these same hypocrites see no issue with buying Chinese goods (Tibet) or writing their screeds on computers using Israeli technology (Intel).

    I’m strongly pro-freedom of speech and association, so I wouldn’t call for punishment of protests against Israel. But I’m can comfortably state that students who have been jerks about Jews in general because of political grievances in other countries have no moral standing.

    Brown reaps what it sows. It has coddled students incapable of understanding nuance, and has not bothered to teach them otherwise. That same lack of nuance expresses itself with swastikas. As they say, people who live in glass houses……

  • flatstock

    This seems almost conspiracy theory-like. Which event is more likely?: A homophobic and anti-Semitic student wrote the graffiti, or this was an elaborate plot to rile the sympathies of students?

    What evidence to you have to believe that the unlikely plot was the case?

    • ShadrachSmith

      agitprop is thick as a brick on campus. So I go with agitprop.

  • ShadrachSmith

    I despise people who condemn hurtful messages. What business is it of theirs what other people think and say? That’s where Sharia took a wrong turn.

  • GOLDieLOX

    It will be interesting to see if there are any protests beyond the members of the Marcy House orgs. Sadly I imagine there won’t be.

  • Louis

    “As residents waited for the arrival of officials, members of BRP and Zeta Delta Xi, a co-ed fraternity also housed in Marcy and home to many LGBTQ students, gathered in the hallways and scrubbed the graffiti off the walls.” How dumb is that, to be destroying evidence of the crime. You would think that someone, smart enough to get into Brown, would be smart enough to know to not destroy evidence. Photographs taken by someone other than a police officer, will not as easily be introduced into evidence at a trial years down the road.

  • herbcaen

    Holocaust 2.0 isnt antisemitic, it is just a criticism of the Netanyahu government

  • LeaveCapitalismAlone

    What’s it with leftists that makes them so hostile to Jews.

    • also

      Their own failed history.

  • also

    Brown tacitly approves of anti-semitism every time they run from confronting it on campus in pro-Palestinian events. Brown cowardice and hypocrisy fly in the face of a liberal educational charter.