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Letter to GWU President Knapp Regarding Swastikas

19 Groups Write to GWU President Steven Knapp Regarding University Response to Swastikas


To: President Steven Knapp

March 4, 2015

Dr. Steven Knapp
2122 I Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20052


Dear President Knapp,


We are 19 Jewish and civil rights organizations representing hundred of thousands of supporters who are concerned for the safety and well-being of Jewish students on your campus.


As you know, during the last week in February three swastikas were drawn inside International House, a dorm housing sororities and fraternities, three of which are historically Jewish.  We are troubled by the University’s response, and join Jewish student leaders on your campus who are calling for the University to better address incidents of campus antisemitism.


According to reports about the swastikas that appeared in The GW Hatchet and Washington Post, the University:


  • Did not formally acknowledge the swastikas until a meeting with students four days after the initial report was filed.
  • Did not take the issue seriously as students felt compelled to ask their parents to call the university on their behalf in order for the university to take action.
  • Referred to the swastikas as “offensive drawings” but did not publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that it particularly targets members of the Jewish community for hatred and discrimination.
  • Is not investigating the incident as a hate crime.
  • May not have adequately trained security personnel to recognize antisemitism and hate crimes, and to appropriately respond to Jewish student concerns.


Jewish student leaders have called on the University to issue a formal apology for not addressing Jewish student concerns about the swastikas in a forthright manner, and asked that campus police officers be better trained in diversity and hate crimes.
We fully support the students’ requests, and we ask that in addition, you investigate this incident as a possible hate crime as defined in the George Washington University Crime Statistic Report Form, and issue a public statement condemning the swastikas, acknowledging their antisemitic nature and impact on Jewish students, and committing yourself and your administration to addressing similar incidents of anti-Jewish bigotry promptly and vigorously.
We hope that you will show your students, their parents, GWU alumni, and the larger community that George Washington University stands firmly against bigotry and hatred, including antisemitism, and will protect all members of the campus community.
We await your response and thank you for your leadership in protecting Jewish students.



AMCHA Initiative
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
David Horowitz Freedom Center
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
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America


Cc:  Board of Trustees
        Dr. Steven Lerman, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
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