To: President Joseph E. Aoun
President Joseph E. Aoun
Office of the President
716 Columbus Place, Suite 620
Boston, MA 02120
April 2, 2015
Dear President Aoun,
We are 22 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Northeastern University.
We are troubled by the reports of a swastika drawn on a dry-erase board in the common space of the International Village dorm, as well as a mezuzah vandalized at an off-campus apartment building. These incidents follow the disturbing incident that occurred in November of 2014, when swastikas were drawn on two fliers posted on campus to publicize a lecture by an Israeli military official.
In both incidents, your leadership has been exemplary in identifying such acts as antisemitic, promptly and strongly condemning these actions as hate crimes, stating the University will be investigating, and standing firmly against bigotry. We join Northeastern Hillel incommending you for your, “courage and integrity in swiftly condemning anti-Semitism.”
We share Northeastern Hillel Executive Director Arine Bravermen’s concern that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and other anti-Israel activities contribute to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students. As Ms. Bravermen stated, “I don’t think it’s coincidental that the swastika appeared in the same residence hall where [Students for Justice in Palestine] conducted ‘dorm storming’ with mock eviction notices last spring, and went door-to-door soliciting signatures for their divestment petition, in violation of quiet hours, during midterms just a few weeks ago.”
Campus antisemitism is a serious and growing problem. A recent study published by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law reveals that 54% of Jewish American college and university students report experiencing or witnessing antisemitism on campus in the recent school year. The research reveals that this is a much more widespread problem than most realized.
In the last year, more than 15 college and university campuses around the country have been defaced with swastikas, in each case causing particular distress to Jewish students. There have also been multiple reports of antisemitic name-calling, threats, assaults and other acts of hate and discrimination. Similar to this most recent incident at Northeastern, these acts often follow anti-Israel BDS campaigns.
It is important to point out that Jewish students are not the only ones affected by such bigotry; it taints the entire university and undermines its educational mission and core values.
To deter future acts of anti-Jewish bigotry and demonstrate unequivocally your commitment to protecting Jewish students and all students on your campus, we recommend that in addition to your public statements and commitment to investigating such incidents as a hate crime, you:
- Publicly commit to educating University staff, including campus police, in identifying antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes.
- Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism to fully and accurately identify all future acts of hate toward Jews.
- Allocate resources and publicly commit to educating students about antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.
Our experience and research have shown that these steps are critical to deterring future incidents. They will also show your students, their parents, Northeastern University alumni, and the larger community that Northeastern University stands firmly against bigotry and hatred, including antisemitism, and will protect all members of the campus community.
Thank you, once again, for your swift, strong and admirable statements condemning recent acts of antisemitism, and for your consideration of our additional recommendations to keep Jewish students safe.
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israeli-American Council (IAC)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel
The Israel Group
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: Provost & Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephen Director
Vice Provost Institutional Diversity & Inclusion John Armendariz