Hate Crime stirs Campus
By: Daris Mendez
Dorm room whiteboards are usually used to communicate trivial things such as when your next floor meeting is or a reminder to clean up your dorm room before inspections.
However, Nathaniel Sietz, senior Kean student, found a rather disturbing message on Oct. 6. Two swastikas and an X were marked on his whiteboard without a trace of who had performed this act of defamation.
Not only has the swastika been a symbol of hate since the beginning of World War II, but this hate message in particular struck fear and confusion. Being the president of the New Hillel, a Jewish life group at Kean University, these drawings became more than just a possible joke.
Initially flustered and fearful on what to do, Sietz informed NJ Jewish News that he got in contact with his resident assistant and an NJ state trooper who quickly shrugged it off as just a joke. He later contacted the vice president of student affairs at Kean and the case was then referred to campus police.
About a month after the incident, Sietz told the NJJN that campus police determined through video footage that the culprit was a very drunk high school student who was looking for a girl he had met at a party. Despite the culprit being found, this issue still brings up a lot of questions on what this hate crime implies for the Kean community as a whole.
Dr. Dennis Klein, the Director of the Jewish Studies program and history professor at the university mentioned that when hate crimes like this occur it is important to understand that it is a salient issue for everyone.
“My belief is that when something like this happens it is appropriate for the community to understand that this is rather complex,” Klein said. “Especially in a university setting it is prudent that the community begin to organize by meeting and having discussions. It is important. It concerns everyone.”
Dr. Henry Kaplowitz, acting director of the Human Rights Institute, who is notorious for promoting basic human rights on campus, was also very disturbed when he heard about the incident.
“I had spoken to the student and I was extremely disturbed because a swastika for a Jewish student brings back memories of the holocaust,” Kaplowitz said. “It was a symbol of a major genocide and all of our students should be aware of how that really is a hate crime. These are symbols that frighten everybody and people of good intentions because of the effect that they have had on particular groups.”
Dr. Kaplowitz also noted on how Kean University’s diversity comes to play and its organizations on campus like the Human Rights Institute aim to bring awareness towards these issues.
“Kean prides itself on being one of the most diverse in the Unites States, top five in terms of diversity and both the Human rights institute and Student Affairs have programs to make students aware and proud of the diversity our student body has,” Kaplowitz said.
Sietz also told NJJN, how he felt relieved when the culprit was finally found but felt that it would have been nice to have had campus police send a mass email. It is important to let the Kean community know that hate crimes are not tolerated.
Although this crime was not committed by someone who belonged to Kean, it still brings the university community together and it starts the conversation of how we can communally come together to create a safe environment.
“When things like this happen we need to ask ourselves what we can do for the individuals who have been attacked and frightened by these symbols or by other acts that occur. How can we speak out and show support,” Kaplowitz said.