By Shahael Myrthil
An outbreak of anti-Semitic graffiti at Nassau Community College has put the campus on edge and drawn responses from students, faculty, and administrators.
Since mid-October, swastikas and references to Adolph Hitler have been scrawled on the walls of men’s bathrooms and on one campus building stairwell on at least six occasions.
The first incident occurred on October 15, according to Newsday, when three green swastikas were found in a second-floor men’s bathroom in the E building.
Thirteen days later, on October 28, an anti-Semitic remark and two swastikas were spotted on the wall of a men’s bathroom in the D Cluster building.
The next day, a member of the Public Safety Department found multiple swastikas drawn on the urinals and walls of the first two floors of the men’s bathroom in the E Cluster Building.
More recently, in December, swastikas and “Heil Hitler” references appeared in men’s bathrooms in a stairwell in Clusters A and B.
Swastikas, used by the Nazis, symbolize the millions of people that had been killed during the Holocaust. So, with the dark history behind this one symbol, college officials are taking this matter very seriously as they worked alongside Nassau County Police officials to find the man responsible for this crime.
“We have zero tolerance for any and all kinds of hate speech,” said NCC President W. Hubert Keen in a statement on NCC’s Facebook page. “The discovery of swastikas on our large, open campus is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, which represents NCC’s full-time faculty, also issued a statement. It read, in part, “We cannot ignore the fact that whoever drew these swastikas did so in the context of what appears to be a national, post-election increase in bias incidents against not only Jews, but also Muslims, African Americans, and people of color in general, women, LGBTQ, and immigrants.”
The NCCFT statement also said, “. . . the hateful message of those swastikas reminds us how important it is to make respect for difference and diversity a proactive, affirmative part of the work we do here.”
In a press conference held in Mineola, Nassau County Police Det. Lt. Richard Lebrun stated that the “individual who did this is absolutely misguided,” but he (LeBrun) did not think that this past election had anything to do with these recent hate crimes, noting that there is not any “evidence of a surge in hate crimes since Republican Donald Trump was elected president.”
He continued by saying that “while we may have had a couple of incidents after the election, we don’t see a tremendous spike,” according to Newsday.
Lebrun pointed out “bias crimes are down countywide in 2016 compared with 2015, when 62 incidents were reported; 35 involving graffiti. So far this year, there have been 49 bias incidents, 33 of them involving graffiti.”
Students interviewed (by Shayna Egalite and Katherine Frame) on campus had expressed surprise and disappointment about the incidents.
“I don’t know if I’d say I was surprised. I’m more disappointed than anything else,” said Landon Cooper. “I’m disappointed. Although it does not have any personal effect on me, I think that it is disrespectful to people of all kinds, regardless of their race.”
Several students thought the anti-Semitic graffiti was the result of the election. Some saw that the election of Donald Trump as having everything to do with people attacking others because of their race and religion.
“Definitely the election played a role,” said Arianna Simmons. Nicole Lichtman also saw the actions “probably [having] has to do with the election.”
“I think that it’s ridiculous that the people that did this think that they could do something like this and get away with it,” she said.
Kevin Duggan, NYPIRG’s project coordinator and a graduate of Nassau, said he thought the election “had really empowered people to feel like their hate is normalized and … that it’s appropriate to hate people in that way.”
He added, “I am horrified, as an alum of NCC and someone who works to better this school and get the student body involved in working together. … This only means that we just need to keep fighting.”
At the December 13 Board of Trustees meeting, two faculty, Evelyn Deluty, a member of the Philosophy Department, and Sally Drucker, a member of the English Department, expressed concern about the incidents.
Deluty, president of the Academic Senate, asked about the school’s silence about the incidents.
“I can’t fathom why a series of hate crimes that began two months ago hadn’t made public. Why did we hear about these incidents through external media sources?” she asked.
Not addressing these issues when they first occur, goes against the Clery Act of federal law statutes, she noted, which mandates that “the statistics of have crimes be compiled and made public on an annual basis.”
She went on to say that college should make this information public when these crimes first arose not just because external media sources want them, but because it can help prevent a series of other similar crimes from occurring.
On December 21st, Dr. Hubert Keen, had once again released another statement on NCC’s Facebook account, to let everyone know that the suspect responsible for these series of hate crimes was in custody.
“We have learned of the arrest of a student who has allegedly confessed to drawing all of the swastikas recently discovered on campus. We are grateful to the Nassau County Police Department for their good police work in this painstaking investigation. I would also like to commend our own Public Safety Department for working closely with the police in breaking this case. We are especially thankful and proud of the excellent investigation carried out by our NCC Public Safety Officer, Sargent Charles Derck. We are deeply saddened that the alleged perpetrator is a student, and it reminds us that a zero tolerance policy and a rigorous program of on-campus anti-bias programs must be reaffirmed every day. We will use this unfortunate series of events as an object lesson for our students, faculty and staff in the days and weeks ahead,” Keen wrote.
According to the Long Island Press, 20 year old, Jasskirat Saini, of Plainview, was charged with multiple counts of aggravated harassment and was arraigned on December 21st, at First District Court in Hempstead. It was reported that Saini had allegedly told police that “the graffiti was in response to his feeling slighted by the Jewish community in Plainview.”
In a Press Conference, Acting-Nassau County Police Commissioner, Thomas Krumpter, had stressed to the media that hate crimes directed to any community will not be condoned.