Hillel Responds to Swastika Incident… Again

As many students are aware, several swastikas were found carved into a table at Book and Plow Farm this past Saturday, Oct. 10. The Amherst College Hillel community is deeply affected and hurt by the use of the swastika, a symbol which is a direct assault on our Jewish identities and many other minority groups represented on campus. Our hearts are with those students as well and we hope to stand together in these times.

That this is the second event of its kind in less than two years illustrates the insensitivity that individuals in the Amherst community feel towards their Jewish classmates, faculty, staff, and other marginalized community members. We, like everybody else on campus, deserve the opportunity to fully express our beliefs, customs, and culture without fear of discrimination. Hillel works hard to establish a community in which all students can feel at home and accepted on campus. Events like those from this past weekend undermine our efforts and we will not stand for them.

We are working diligently with the administration to ensure that students’ concerns are addressed and that antisemitism is both acknowledged and properly addressed on campus. In the past, the administration has shown a lack of urgency in including Hillel in its response to this type of event. This time around, we hope that our inclusion will ensure that Amherst’s response is as strong as the emotion that a swastika invokes in members of our community and others on campus. We hope that student voices are heard and included and, more than anything, that the college can work towards creating the safe environment for all students that it has failed to foster in the past. 

This hateful symbol’s appearance on Amherst property is likely no accident given the college’s history of complacency and noninterference in instances of bias. We write this statement to uphold the fact that Amherst cannot, should not, and will not be a place where this sort of hate is tolerated and harbored. The administration has a duty to Hillel, its Jewish students and faculty, Jewish members of the town and the community as a whole to take stronger action than in the past.

One event of such magnitude is intolerable to us, and that this should happen a second time in over 800 students’ tenure at Amherst is unconscionable. We demand real changes and concrete actions, rather than insincere, repetitive, and unsubstantiated promises and apologies. Only if such action is taken will Jewish students be able to feel safe on campus, and more so, supported by an administration that claims to prioritize its students’ wellbeing over the college’s public image.

We want something to be done about hatred in our community. But more than that, we want human beings to treat each other with respect and common decency. As long as Nazi imagery remains on Amherst’s campus, it is not a safe place. The people who propagate and, more perniciously, tolerate these symbols contribute to an unsafe and hostile environment for us all while also diminishing the steps that committed members of the community have taken toward true acceptance at Amherst.