UPDATE: These Responses To An Act Of Anti-Semitism At UW-Madison Have Restored My Faith In Today’s College Students

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Nice Move

My decision regarding where to attend college ended up being a two-school showdown between the University of Missouri and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After seeing all the terrible after-effects that rampant, incessant protesting has had on Mizzou, demoting it from a midwest powerhouse to the national respect-garnering equivalent of a Gary, Indiana dildo factory, I am incredibly happy that I chose the latter. I have always been proud of my school’s level-headed approach to solving crises, which involves actively listening to students’ responses to major changes or problems at the university.

Recently, an anti-semitic incident occurred at UW that some students claim was not properly addressed by the administration. Here’s the Facebook post that started the current dialogue.


While I agree that the problem needed to be addressed, and the perpetrators reprimanded, I think the school handled it perfectly. Why would the university share the incident with any more people than the group they believe to have been affected? So more people could be affected by it? All that does is propagate the idea that hate messages have power, the very idea this student hopes to dispel via a campus-wide discussion.

Sometimes the best way to solve a large-scale problem like anti-semitism is via a small-scale approach. Do you really think that turning these two students into pariahs, targets for the metaphorical rotten tomatoes of the Wisconsin student body, is going to quell the problem of anti-semitism in America? No — all it’s going to do is torture the souls of two students who had no idea the implications of their actions. Letting them know directly that what they did is inappropriate and unacceptable, and making sure they understand that, though? Yeah, that puts us on the right track to solving that problem.

Do you know who agrees with me? The victim of the anti-semitism. Here is his response.

So this is my door. I just wanted to briefly write what happened a few weeks ago. At about 1:30 I came back to my dorm and saw the door. At first, my roommate and I had no idea what was going on, but then my neighbors told me it was them. It was an insensitive joke/prank gone wrong by two people who had no idea what they were doing. Mainly, I just wanted to say that we don’t feel threatened and we let housing deal with it, but in no way do we condone [any] action like this. Anti-semitism is overshadowed in our country and it needs to be addressed, but don’t demonize two guys that I have gotten to know well and who were not cognizant of how anti-semitic their actions were, but who were punished and have learned a great deal since

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a victim of hate speech not go full social justice warrior on us. The idea that you have the power to be seen as a “champion of progress” almost always gets the best of the victim, causing them to choose the “righteous” path of outrage-monger over the progressive path of “person who actually wants to see real change.”

Another University of Wisconsin student chimed in with an additional, incredibly level-headed response.

This post has been blowing up over my feed, and it’s tough for me to decide how I feel about it. As a Jew, the site of a swastika inherently makes me cringe. And whoever was responsible for this is obviously a racist asshole who should answer for his actions. BUT, do we really need the University’s help to discipline this kid? If this blows up into a massive issue where kids get expelled and RA’s lose their jobs, all over somebody’s feelings getting hurt, than the University of Wisconsin becomes just as big of a joke as Mizzou. Additionally, what does it say about the Jewish people if we need the University to fight our battles for us? If we can crawl through the dessert for 40 years, I think we can handle a douchebag and a few pieces of paper.

The end goal here is not just to punish whoever is responsible. An eye for an eye leaves the world blind, and it just perpetuates friction between parties. The end goal is to stop anti-semitism, right? Instead of persecuting those who we feel have persecuted us, let’s be the bigger people here and educate them. This kid didn’t commit a violent crime (thankfully); he’s just an incredibly mislead individual. Ignorance was the driving force behind this act of anti-semitism. Perhaps, if we up-root the ignorance, the anti-semitism will be dealt with as well.

So how do we educate our non-Jewish peers about what it means to be Jewish? It’s quite easy: be a mensch. Judaism is all about loving your fellow man for who he is, and being the best person you can be. It’s hard to hate somebody who shows compassion towards you.

This picture should not be viewed as a Jewish cry for help, but rather a Jewish call to action. Jews don’t need the University of Wisconsin to end anti-semitism. Let’s just individually just be the best Jews we can be each day, and the world will begin to notice. I promise.

Kudos to my alma mater and some of its students for handling this situation correctly… thus far. All I can do now is sit back and hope that the administration doesn’t give in to some students’ ill-fated demands for a mountain to be made out of a mole hill.

UPDATE: 2/18/16, 3:18 p.m.

The University of Wisconsin has released an official statement about the matter.

From The University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Dear UW-Madison Community,

One of the fundamental values of our campus community is to ensure that every person feels safe, welcomed, valued, and supported. The important work of ensuring true freedom and equality for all requires building a culture of humility where acts of intolerance are addressed.

On Jan. 26, printouts of swastikas and Hitler’s face were taped on the door of a student room in Sellery Residence Hall. University Housing and the Division of Student Life responded to this incident immediately, providing support to the targeted students and identifying the perpetrator. After investigating, we notified the Sellery Hall community via email and organized a discussion and support group, in keeping with the context of the situation and appropriate protocols.

When a bias incident occurs, our first priority is to respond immediately to the community most directly affected. We communicate more broadly as appropriate based on the nature of the incident. All incidents are tracked but not all of them result in a campus-wide notification.

The issues that drive this incident and others are unfortunately not unique to our campus or other campuses – they permeate our society. Addressing them requires the support of everyone in our community. We invite you to attend a Town Hall on Anti-Semitism on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Gordon Dining & Event Center as we discuss actions that will continue to address intolerance and hate.

As we move forward we should all be aware of the plentiful resources we have to support and educate ourselves. UW–Madison provides several places to gain support or to discuss incidents of bias and hate.

If you become aware of any incident that compromises the values of our community, please seek assistance from campus resources:

Report at go.wisc.edu/reporthateandbias

joshua.johnson@wisc.edu of the Hate and Bias Incident Team

Dean of Students Office

UW-Madison Police Department

University Health Services Mental Health Counseling

We call upon you, our faculty, academic and university staff, and students, to do this work – to recognize the profound impact when a few individuals bring hate and intolerance into our community, to intervene when you can, and report situations.


Lori Berquam, Vice Provost and Dean of Students

Joshua Johnson, Director, Multicultural Student Center

Jeff Novak, Director, University Housing

Patrick Sims, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer

I have mixed feelings about this response. On the one hand, they have now firmly established the precedent that not all issues of bias and intolerance require campus-wide notification. On the other, establishing that precedent required the university to give in to student calls for a campus-wide notification. Isn’t it ironic?

Hopefully from here on out, university officials will utilize the described policy and leave these decisions up to their own discretion rather than that of social media.


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