Menu Close

Letter to Stanford President Regarding Swastikas

26 Groups Write to Stanford President Hennessy Regarding University Response to Swastikas & Ask Stanford to Adopt U.S. State Dep’t Definition of Antisemitism


To: President John LeRoy Hennessy

April 28, 2015


President John LeRoy Hennessy
Office of the President
Stanford University
Stanford, CA  94305-2061


Dear President Hennessy,


We are 26 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Stanford University.

We understand from several on-line reports that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house was spray-painted with swastikas on Saturday night. We commend you for issuing a statement the next day in which you affirmed that the university “will not tolerate hate crimes” and that the incident will be fully investigated, both by campus police and by the university under Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol.  However, we strongly encourage you to publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that although it affects the entire campus community, it  particularly targets Stanford’s Jewish members for hatred and discrimination.

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 20 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.  These acts are often linked to anti-Israel activity on campus, particularly boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaigns, such as the extremely divisive anti-Israel divestment vote in the Stanford student senate last quarter.

We encourage you to take the following steps to deter future acts of anti-Jewish bigotry and demonstrate unequivocally your commitment to protecting Jewish students and all students on your campus:

  • Swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge that swastika graffiti is an act of antisemitism and will not be tolerated on campus.
  • 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.

Taking these steps will show your students, their parents, alumni, and the larger community that Stanford University stands firmly against bigotry and hatred, including antisemitism, and will protect all members of the campus community.

Thank you for considering our recommendations.  We look forward to working with you to protect Jewish students.



Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
AMCHA Initiative
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)
CUFI on Campus
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Hasbarah Fellowships
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
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America



Board of Trustees
John W. Etchemendy, Provost
Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, Executive Director Hillel at Stanford

Skip to content