The Georgetown University Police Department is narrowing a list of potential suspects in its investigation of incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti and threatening messages directed at women in LXR Hall last month.
GUPD installed security cameras and established 24-hour patrols on the second floor of LXR Hall while it continues its investigation with Metropolitan Police Department officers and forensic scientists of the incidents reported in the floor’s bathrooms in September. GUPD has also cut a lock for restroom use on the floor and assigned officers to question students on the floor for information, according to GUPD Chief Jay Gruber.
“We are conducting an aggressive investigation into these hate crimes. Our detectives are focused on these crimes,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Since the beginning of September, seven incidents of vandalism with graffiti depicting swastikas have been reported to the GUPD; four of them were found in LXR.
The university stopped notifying the university community of the incidents by email after the incident Sept. 20 in an effort to avoid directing undue attention to the acts, according to a university spokesperson. The university has continued to send emails to East Campus residents only.
Meanwhile, students, faculty, religious leaders and administrators on campus are aiming for increased dialogue on the issue and solidarity for those targeted by the images and messages
According to GUSA Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18), Michael Smith, the director of affirmative action programs in the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action and other organizations have approached Director of Jewish Chaplaincy Rabbi Rachel Gartner to discuss possible responses to the bias-related incidents.
“In the coming month or so [Smith] is going to organize and collaborate with other departments of the university, like the Beeck Center, campus ministries and JSA to create a space for students to discuss these issues, like why is there an increase in anti-Semitism,” Andino said.
A “teach-in” titled “The Violence of Language and the Normalization of Gender Violence,” moderated by philosophy professor Mark Lance and women’s studies professors You-Me Park and Michelle Ohnohna, was scheduled to discuss “what was really written in LXR” on Wednesday.
The event was met with backlash from several students who noted posters for the event made no reference to swastikas or anti-Semitism.
LXR and Nevils Chaplain-In-Residence Reverend Rondesia Jarrett-Schell sent out an e-mail after the Sept. 20 incident, urging students to reach out to her for support.
“It is upsetting to have these incidents happening here in the community where we live,” Jarrett-Schell wrote. “To all students, especially our Jewish students who may have felt especially threatened by the swastika on the first eve of Rosh Hashanah, please know that I am available to meet, talk and support you.”
In addition, the East Campus Residential Team hosted a “Smoothie and Discussion Night” last Sunday.
Georgetown University Student Association President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) said it was important to downplay the attacks to avoid giving the perpetrator attention.
“There’s definitely a tension in situations like this where obviously it’s important to keep students informed and make sure the students know what’s going on,” Mack said. “Then there’s also the tension of when we send out blast messaging we’re amplifying the effects of what that person is doing.”
Alexandre Kleitman (SFS ’20), who lives near the restrooms where a swastika and hateful messages were found, said he thinks Georgetown should continue to openly condemn these incidents.
“I wonder whether it is better to not say anything because you don’t give legitimacy to the act or is it better to communicate about it and continue to reaffirm Georgetown’s stance again,” Kleitman said. “It’s better to have a conversation and speak about it and keep explaining why we’re against it because people are still going to know. I understand there’s an ongoing investigation but I still think you can address it without in any way harming the investigation.”
For Allie Gurwitz (COL ’19), such displays have made her feel supported by the community in light of the hate displayed in the messages.
“The pattern of anti-Semitic graffiti since the beginning of the school year has been unsettling, marginalizing and shocking,” Gurwitz said.
“With each additional occurrence, it becomes more and more apparent to me that at the very least there are people here at Georgetown who have no problem vandalizing our school with swastikas and violent language.”
Gurwitz said she has “found solace in the strength” of Georgetown’s Jewish community, the community’s “ability to counter hate with love for each other” and in the university’s support.
Kleitman said repeatedly encountering the bias-related incidents has incited fear in the dorm and created an uncomfortable atmosphere for residents, especially while the perpetrator remains at large.
“Whenever you walk by someone it’s at the back of your mind because this is happening literally in the bathroom next to ours,” Kleitman said.