AMHERST – Five swastikas were discovered at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center last week, just days after a similar incident at nearby Smith College.
The swastikas, drawn in chalk on the building’s walls, were removed by campus staff shortly after they were reported. The university’s police department is investigating, according to a university spokesperson.
“This act of hate is an affront to the university’s values,” Ed Blaguszewski, a university spokesman, said in a statement. “We reject this hateful act and remain firm in our commitment to building a more inclusive, equitable community that embraces the dignity of all.”
Jewish student and alumni organizations including UMass Hillel, UMass Students in Alliance for Israel and Alums for Campus Fairness condemned the act.
“UMass Hillel is disheartened,” the group said in a post by staff on its Facebook page. “Swastikas are symbols of hatred and violence towards Jews and others and have no place at UMass or anywhere. We denounce anti-Semitism and remain committed to cultivating a campus community where hate has no home.”
This is at least the third anti-Semitic incident to occur at the state’s flagship university over the last year. Last November, the door of a student’s dorm in John Quincy Adams Hall was vandalized with a swastika and homophobic and transphobic slurs. A few weeks later in December, a swastika was found next to a Hanukkah sign on the door of a residential assistant’s room in the Baker Hall dorm.
Hillel staff held extended office hours and offered support services and a communal gathering on campus Thursday and allocated time for conversation and reflection on Friday evening following its Shabbat dinner.
On Oct. 24, eight swastikas were painted inside three academic buildings at Smith, an all-women’s college part of the Five College Consortium that includes UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Mount Holyoke College.
In a letter to students, faculty and staff, Smith College president Kathleen McCartney condemned the vandalism as an act of “hatred and cowardice.”
Smith College had no further update on its investigation into the incident.