Anti-Semitic, racist vandalism prompts university response

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After noticing a message inscribed on her cubicle in E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library that targeted multiple groups at Lehigh, Sara Boyd, ’21, knew she had to take immediate action.

Boyd filed a report with LUPD about the anti-Semitic and racist message written on the FML cubicle.

“I freaked out when I saw the message because my phone was dead, and I did not know what to do,” Boyd said. “I went to a charging station so that I could take a picture and send it to LUPD.”

Lehigh University Police Chief Jason Schiffer said when he first received the picture he could not read the faint writing, but was able to zoom in and see the message. 

Schiffer and his team launched an investigation regarding the incident. However, the investigation was inconclusive.

“(The message) could have been at FML for some time and gone unnoticed,” Schiffer said.

The incident, which was reported Sept. 27, was addressed in an email sent to the Lehigh community on Oct. 17.

“Protocol for situations like these is to make an assessment of what is going on in the community and with the involved parties,” Schiffer said.

Title IX Coordinator Karen Salvemini worked alongside several offices, including the Office of the General Counsel, to send the email to inform the Lehigh community about what had occurred.

She said she usually consults with other offices to determine how incidents impact members of the campus community.

“I am sad that prejudice still exists on campus and angry someone would do that on campus,” said Rabbi Steve Nathan, the director of Jewish Student Life.

Both Nathan and Walead Mosaad, the director of Muslim Student Life, expressed concern over a general lack of action once an incident is acknowledged.

“Most people show outrage and then move on,” Mosaad said. “They accept that it is a regular occurrence.”

Salvemini said when people see this behavior and do not take action, they allow the behavior to continue.

“People are immune to racism,” Nathan said. “We get upset, angry, protest and then back to life again until the next incident.”

Mosaad said the incident is unfortunate, but incidents like this one can bring people together. Nathan advises students not to hide their emotions and reach out for support if necessary.

The Chaplain’s Office is open to students and is strictly confidential. There is also prevention education on campus, and Salvemini said students need to interact with these programs.

“Hateful messages like these are not tolerated on campus and should not be tolerated in our society,” Schiffer said. “I encourage anyone who sees any writing that expresses hate and intolerance to let the police know about it.”

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