UND to refund harassed Jewish student’s dorm rentGRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota will reimburse about a month’s worth of rent to a Jewish student who said he had to move out of his dormitory under the threat of anti-Semitic taunts and graffiti, including a swastika in a stairwell on his floor.
By: Joseph Marks, Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota will reimburse about a month’s worth of rent to a Jewish student who said he had to move out of his dormitory under the threat of anti-Semitic taunts and graffiti, including a swastika in a stairwell on his floor.
Peter Johnson, a school spokesman, said Friday that the student, Scott Lebovitz, would get about $460 for the cost of housing at West Residence Hall dating back to mid-March.
Meanwhile, UND police are investigating two other instances of hateful graffiti that occurred on campus Thursday night, Chief Duane Czapiewski said.
In McVey Residence Hall, a Happy New Year sign was altered to read “Happy Jew Year.” In Squires Residence Hall, the word “flamer,” a slur for homosexuals, was written on the white board outside a dorm room. Friday was a national “Day of Silence” at UND and other campuses protesting harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.
Police don’t have suspects in either case, Czapiewski said. But investigators think they know the students responsible for the earlier taunts, he said, including a March incident in which “Scott is a Jew” was written in ice cream on the dorm elevator.
Lebovitz moved out of his dorm room and into his fraternity house a week ago, saying he feared violence from the students responsible. Residence services staff initially told him he’d moved out too late and would have to pay for his dorm room for the remainder of the semester. UND administrators reversed that position recently.
In addition to the above, UND police are also investigating two other instances of racist graffiti, which investigators believe are unrelated to the incidents in West, McVey and Squires Halls.
In the first incident, reported in February, a series of racist slurs were drawn in Brannon Hall. In the second event, which occurred last weekend, two swastikas were drawn in Noren Hall.
Czapiewski said his office has few leads in those cases.
An e-mail sent to UND students and employees Friday afternoon asks anyone with information about “hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents” to contact UND police.
Shortly before news broke of the West Hall incidents, UND President Charles Kupchella issued a statement calling the incidents “abhorrent” and “mindless.” But the school’s Jewish Student Organization criticized him Thursday for declining to describe the image found in West Hall as a swastika. Kupchella repeated his stance in a phone interview with the Herald later that evening.
The swastika image, shown in Friday’s Herald, is a standard swastika form drawn in blue magic marker but with the top portion facing left rather than right as in the Nazi swastika. The image is also scribbled over with lighter blue marks.
When the swastika first appeared it was accompanied by a racial slur referring to African-Americans and crude pictures of male and female body parts, Lebovitz said.
Kupchella issued another statement Friday afternoon in which he condemned the graffiti, but did not directly call the West Hall image a swastika.
“There has been much in the media recently related to swastikas and other potentially criminal incidents on campus that have cultural and religious inferences,” the statement reads. “I want to be very clear: We do NOT tolerate this kind of behavior. There is no place on this campus or elsewhere in society for actions that are disrespectful, demeaning or threatening.”
“The UND Police Department is in the midst of an active investigation aimed at getting to the bottom of recent incidents,” the statement continues. “When the events are fully characterized at the conclusion of that investigation, which we expect to be soon, we will take all appropriate actions through the criminal justice system and our own internal judicial process. In the meantime, we have taken every precaution to protect our campus community.”
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