Carnegie Mellon University officials say they’re investigating after a student reported finding swastikas and other anti-Semitic vandalism scrawled inside a campus library book this week.
Officials say it’s unclear when the book was vandalized, but the reported discovery comes just weeks after the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue and amid a continuing wave of anti-Semitic incidents being reported nationwide — from California to the Philadelphia suburbs to Columbia University.
In a letter addressed to students and faculty on Thursday, CMU President Farnam Jahanian wrote, “I am distressed and saddened by yet another act of hate in our community.”
“We must be clear,” Jahanian adds, “We condemn this evil. We reject bigotry in all its forms — it has no place in society.”
Photos of the vandalized book, one dealing with the queer Jewish identity, were taken and posted to Facebook by Adira Rosen, a second-year undergraduate directing student at CMU.
One photo shows an inscription in the upper margin of a page reading, “Jews have no business at CMU” alongside another inscription reading, “You are right.” The latter inscription, which appears in a different style of handwriting, is accompanied by a smiley face. A large swastika covers the page below. Rosen also photographed swastikas on two other pages of the book.
Rosen told The Incline that she was wrapping up a research paper on Wednesday night when she opened a copy of Warren Hoffman’s “The Passing Game” that she’d borrowed from CMU’s Hunt Library earlier in the day.
Rosen says she opened the book and immediately discovered the inscriptions and swastika on Page 7.
In a Facebook post detailing her reaction, Rosen, who is Jewish, adds, “After an initial moment of shock, I showed the book to my friends with whom I was working that evening. In shock, we all sat over the book and flipped through all 207 pages to find two more swastikas hidden on page 50 and page 163.”
The post continues: “The recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, that [took] eleven innocent lives from our community, was a massive public atrocity but acts of anti-Semitism and hate happen every day, hidden from view. It is our job to make sure these acts of hate don’t get swept under the rug, we must condemn this.”
A CMU spokesperson said officials would not be releasing any further information on the investigation at this time.
In his letter to the campus community, Jahanian wrote, “This is an important time to reaffirm that inclusion and respect have a singular place among the values of this university. I ask all of you to join me in living out our commitment to those values and speaking out against any acts of hatred that undermine the strength and resiliency of our diverse community.”
The Anti-Defamation League identified 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017, up from 1,267 in 2016. It marked the highest single-year increase since the organization released its first Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in 1979.
The largest increase in 2017 was in the category of vandalism, with 952 incidents recorded, an 86 percent increase over the 510 recorded in 2016.
“The dramatic increase in anti-Semitic acts of vandalism is particularly concerning,” the ADL wrote, “because it indicates that the perpetrators feel emboldened enough to break the law.”
The FBI also reports that hate crimes increased by 17 percent in the U.S. in 2017. The numbers reflect incidents reported to local law enforcement agencies and in turn to federal authorities. Vox.com reported that this data likely undercounts the actual number of hate crimes committed in the U.S. “by hundreds of thousands.”
In a direct message exchange with The Incline, Rosen said she’s unnerved but determined.
“Opening that book and seeing the swastika and the writing put me in a state of shock. I felt paralyzed. I felt heartbroken,” she explained. “When I showed my friends the book, I didn’t say anything, all I could do was lift up the book and show them the page. But as the shock set in, it quickly turned into a galvanizing moment in which I realized how badly I needed to take action.”
Rosen added, “Someone out there had enough hate in their heart to do this but I could not respond with anger, I had to respond in a positive manner that ensured that this story was told and not pushed aside or hidden.”