More than 120 students and administrators gathered at Marvin Center Tuesday night to call for student-led action in response to the symbols of hate that have appeared around campus.
University President Steven Knapp attended the town hall meeting, which came a day after the University officials confirmed that freshman Sarah Marshak was the perpetrator behind several of the Mitchell Hall swastikas. The meeting included an open forum for members of the community to voice their opinion on the incidents that have been reported around campus over the past two weeks.
Knapp spoke about the University’s dedication to being a diverse institution and urged the GW community to learn from the hate symbols found in Mitchell Hall, New Hall and Potomac House.
“Whatever the motives are, if we are going to be dedicated to be open as an institution, we need to learn from each other as students,” he said. “That’s where the actual learning takes place. We must have mutual respect to each other.”
Knapp said the hate incidents cross the line by attacking the heart of this community.
“There is no tolerance to these incidents,” he said. “We have to make a clear message that this is not acceptable, that this is not part of who we are at this university.”
Dolores Stafford, chief of the University Police Department, said those who copycat incidents such as these do so for the publicity and the recognition from such acts.
“The student (of the New Hall swastika) made it known that they were doing it for shock value,” she said.
Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, said such as Tuesday night’s town hall is the first step in moving forward from these incidents.
“We need to concentrate on forgiving the students involved with these incidents,” he said. “In order to heal, we must forgive.”
Brand Kroeger, Student Association executive vice president, expressed empathy for the victims of the attacks.
“I don’t feel that we have a culture of hate on this campus,” he said. “We have to love people when they least expect it and least deserve it.”
During the meeting, senior Jessica Lowenthal said she felt embarrassed by the lack of students at the town hall meeting, which was filled with a significant number of GW administrators.
“The elephant in the room for me is the room itself is not full,” Lowenthal said. “Students are too apathetic. They don’t seem to care if it hasn’t affected themselves.”
After the town hall, Lowenthal reinforced her concerns about the composition of the those in attendance at the meeting.
“The issue is that half of the people who did show up tonight won’t be involved in the campaign (in building our community),” she said. “Nothing is going to happen.”
Freshman Sally Nuamah, a member of the Black Student Union, said that she was encouraged by the discussion shared throughout the meeting and hoped it will lead to success.
“I am optimistic about these meetings,” she said. “We need to make our discussion here an obligation.”