(JTA) – Campus police at a Massachusetts college are investigating an incident of harassment against a Jewish student. The incident took place two weeks ago at Hampshire College in Amherst. The college’s president, Jonathan Lash, condemned the incident, but no further details have been released.
In a memo to the Hampshire community, Lash wrote that the campus police responded to a report of “an act of blatant and deplorable antisemitism” that took place in the middle of the night in an area with student housing. “The incident is being treated as a criminal matter and is under active investigation,” he wrote. Lash urged anyone with information to immediately contact the campus police. “These are acts of cowardice intended to intimidate and hurt all of us. But I want to assure you that they will not deter us from our commitment to stand together against hate and bigotry,” he wrote. He noted that there have been other acts of antisemitism reported in prior years on the campus, as well as some that have gone unreported, which inhibits the school’s efforts to respond, he wrote.
On Tuesday, March 27, the college held a previously scheduled program on hate speech and antisemitism prompted by antisemitic incidents in recent years. In 2017, antisemitic graffiti including a swastika or antisemitic language was found in the library and in a couple of dormitories, a college spokesman told JTA. The year before, three incidents of graffiti were reported.
The strong language used by the college president indicates the incident was serious, according to Robert Trestan, regional director of the New England Anti Defamation League. While it’s important for the college to have the leeway to investigate, it must be followed up with transparency, Trestan stressed.
“It’s important for the community to know exactly what happened,” he told JTA in a phone conversation. The fact that there are incidents going unreported is a concern, Trestan cautioned. The college needs to ensure that there are measures in place for students to report racist or antisemitic incidents.
Massachusetts campuses have been part of the trend of a dramatic rise of antisemitic incidents on colleges across the country, Trestan said. College campuses saw a total of 204 incidents in 2017, compared to 108 in 2016, according to a recent ADL report.