By Julia Ingram
On Oct. 21, a reverse swastika was found on a pillar at the Faculty East Building of the Graduate School of Business. The incident follows an increase in the number of hate crimes on campus in 2016 as reported in the 2017 Safety, Security and Fire Report.
Six instances of hate crimes were reported at Stanford last year, including four instances of vandalism, one threat of physical violence and one battery. This compares with two incidents in 2015 and three in 2014.
According to Lauren Schoenthaler, senior vice provost for Institutional Equity and Access, hate crimes violate fundamental community standards at Stanford.
“Even one hate crime is one hate crime too many,” Schoenthaler said.
Between Dec. 28, 2016, and Jan. 6, 2017, vandals painted swastikas on the outer walls of Lantana in the Gerhard Casper Quad, several street signs, two structures in the Rodin Sculpture Garden, the Main Quad, the exterior wall of the Graduate School of Education, the exterior wall of the Clock Tower, the north side of Highland Hall and the south side of Cecil H. Green Library.
Two other acts of vandalism were committed earlier in the year in 2016. Campus police believe these crimes are connected due to the similar ways in which the swastikas were painted and the grease-like tar material used in both instances, according to rabbi Jessica Kirschner, executive director of Stanford Hillel.
The fourth instance of vandalism involved a racial epithet painted on a restroom mirror at the Avery Aquatic Center on Jul. 26, 2016. The other two crimes involved one reported threat of physical violence against an individual for their perceived sexual orientation and one reported battery targeting an individual on the basis of race. The perpetrators were not identified.
“This is a community that is better because we are made up of different people with different areas of expertise and different backgrounds,” Schoenthaler said. “To think that people are being targeted on the basis of a protected characteristic is extraordinarily disappointing.”
Schoenthaler was referring to the eight characteristics protected under the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of such characteristics.
Clery Compliance Coordinator Annette Spicuzza suggested that the increase in 2016 may be a result of an increase in actual reports rather than an increase in crimes themselves.
“I think people may be more willing to report, and that may be part of it,” she said.
On the other hand, Kirschner suggests the rise may be a result of a national trend of rising hate crimes.
“It seems to me this kind of activity is part of these larger patterns in our society that it’s OK to say hateful things about other people, and it’s OK to make other groups afraid,” she said.
Regardless of the causes, University staff are seeking to eliminate hate crimes altogether. Schoenthaler cited the Diversity and First-Generation Office as well as other community centers on campus as examples of University efforts to help students feel safe on campus.
Schoenthaler said students can report crimes through the Acts of Intolerance Protocol — a set of guidelines established by the University for reporting and responding to perceived hate crimes. She added that organizations such as Hillel also hope to work with other student groups to help expand the support network for students who are victims of hate crimes.
“We need to really double down on building our relationships with other potentially vulnerable groups across campus,” she said. “We should be working together to create a Stanford campus community where people can bring their whole self.”