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Response from GWU President Knapp Regarding Swastikas

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


From: Steven Knapp

Date: March 4, 2015 at 10:51:52 PM PST

Subject: Re: Serious concerns about swastikas at International House

To: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of AMCHA Initiative

Cc: Additional 18 Groups (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, StandWithUs, Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism, The Lawfare Project, Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.) and Zionist Organization of America)


Dear Ms. Rossman-Benjamin,


Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention.  I know my chief of staff Barbara Porter informed you earlier that I was traveling when your message arrived but would respond as soon as I could.  I also know she conveyed to you that I take this incident with the utmost seriousness and have instructed my staff to do the same.


As has often happened in my experience, the media’s reporting of such incidents is not always comprehensive or accurate.  When swastikas were discovered on February 21 in the lobby of one of our residence halls, International House, the university took steps to remove them, communicate with resident students and their parents, and launch an investigation that is still very active as I write to you.


Those conducting the investigation include officers who have received anti-bias training as well as senior members of our staff who lead our efforts to maintain a diverse and inclusive campus environment.  As a result of the  investigation so far, we have identified at least one student whom our investigators believe to be involved, and his case is being referred for appropriate disciplinary action.


Our communications about this incident with the George Washington University community are ongoing and have taken many forms.  In addition to regular messages to residents of International House, correspondence with parents, and statements to the entire university community, we have sought the advice and assistance of the executive director of GW Hillel, Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, and I have personally been in touch with the Yizhak Rabin Memorial Professor and former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dr. Walter Reich, who plays a key role in educating not only our students but our entire community on the history, meaning, and continuing relevance of the Holocaust, as well as the ongoing reality of anti-Semitism.


We continue to investigate, educate and communicate.  As we do so, we are fully aware that, since its adoption nearly a century ago as the symbol of the Nazi Party, the swastika has acquired an intrinsically anti-Semitic meaning, and therefore that its appearance on our campus is a very disturbing occurrence.  As Dean of Students Peter Konwerski publicly stated, “this is abhorrent behavior and cannot be tolerated.”




Steven Knapp


Office of the President
The George Washington University
2121 Eye Street
Washington, DC 20052

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