The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Jenkins Responds to “Antisemetic and Hateful Graffiti” in the Wake of Israel-Hamas War

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In an email to the Bates community On Oct. 13, College President Garry Jenkins decried what he called a “deplorable bias incident” in Gillespie Hall (the dormitory building formerly referred to as 280 College Street).

The incident, which consisted of a swastika drawn inside of a bathroom stall, is currently being investigated by Campus Safety. 

Jenkins condemned the act in harsh terms, labeling it “abhorrent and unacceptable” and a frustrating act of “cowardice.” But he also expressed his continued faith in Bates and its values of diversity and inclusion, writing that “the person(s) responsible for this act will not deter or distract us from our important work of building and strengthening our community and of using our talents and skills to contribute to a more just world.”

The bias incident comes on the heels of an eruption of violence in the Middle East, including attacks on Israel by Hamas and retaliatory airstrikes. As of Oct. 13, reports from the respective governments and CBS News estimated the death tolls since Oct. 7 as at least 1,200 Israelis and 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

This is not the first time that tensions in Israel and Palestine have sparked contention at Bates. In 2021, the college’s investigation of a chalk message reading “F*** Zionist Israel” angered some students, who wrote in a statement signed by Bates College Student Government and several other student organizations that the administration’s response “alienate[d] Palestinian students by erasing their indigenous struggle.” In the last week, other colleges across the United States have become flashpoints for activism and protest, with Harvard University student organizations drawing national attention for their statement calling Israel “entirely responsible” for the Hamas attacks and Columbia University closing its campus to the public in the wake of tense protests. But the blatant antisemitism, including the use of Nazi iconography, makes the Gillespie Hall vandalism unusual on the Bates campus.

Jenkins reminded students in his email on Oct. 13 that the “war in Israel and Gaza and the rhetoric that surrounds it are not within our sphere of control, but how we treat one another on this campus is,” and called upon the campus community to remain “steadfast in rejecting antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate.”

He concluded by sharing a list of resources for students affected by the tensions in Israel and Palestine or by the bias incident in Gillespie Hall. Students should reach out to their Student Support Advisor, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Center for Global Education, the Multifaith Chaplaincy or the Office of Intercultural Education. Bias incidents and hate crimes should be reported online or to Gwen Lexow, Associate Vice President for Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance, who can be reached at 207-786-6445.

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About the Contributor
Maple Buescher, Editor-in-Chief
Maple is a junior from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, majoring in Politics with a minor in English. She is a member of the college orchestra, the sailing team, and the tennis and women's soccer clubs, and a devoted volunteer in the Lewiston elementary schools. She is a big fan of reading, writing, hiking, and snowball fights. Previously, Maple served as a staff writer and the Managing Arts & Leisure editor for The Bates Student. She is a regular columnist for The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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