The Metropolitan Police Department and University Police Department have launched a hate crime investigation after a member of the predominantly Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau posted a swastika on the group’s bulletin board inside International House.
University President Steven Knapp said officials were “dismayed” Monday morning to find the swastika, which the student had acquired during a trip to India over spring break. The student “claims his act was not an expression of hatred,” Knapp said in a statement released Monday evening.
It is the second time in three weeks that the symbol has been drawn or posted in International House. Knapp said the incident from last month, when three swastikas were drawn on walls, will also now be investigated as a hate crime. Officials were previously investigating the case as an incident of vandalism.
“Our entire community should be aware of the swastika’s association with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people and should be concerned about the extremely harmful effects that displaying this symbol has on individuals and on the climate of our entire University community,” Knapp said.
Members of UPD who have received anti-bias training will help the Office of Diversity and Inclusion investigate the latest incident, according to the release. Knapp said that since the first incident, officials have worked with GW Hillel and Jewish student organizations to offer “support and reassurance to students affected by this abhorrent act.”
Knapp said the University will also start a program to educate the community about the “damage that symbols of hatred do to us all.”
Two weeks ago, a Jewish rights group released a letter asking Knapp to formally apologize for the University’s response to the first set of swastikas drawn in International House. That petition was supported by nearly 20 other national advocacy organizations. Knapp responded saying that officials immediately removed the swastikas, communicated with students and were conducting an investigation.
Members of GW’s Jewish community expressed concern after the first swastikas were drawn in International House, with some saying the University didn’t do enough to properly handle the incident.
International Fraternity Council President Tim Stackhouse and Zeta Beta Tau President Nick Carr did not immediately return requests for comment.