Campus officials discovered graffiti on March 15 in a men’s restroom in Porter College that included swastikas and the message, “Blood will be shed at UCSC 4/20/11.”
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal released a campus-wide email on March 17 that condemned the swastikas but did not mention the explicit threat. In his email, Blumenthal also mentioned anti-Semitic graffiti which had been discovered at McHenry Library March 14.
An email was released exclusively to the Porter College community March 18 that mentioned both the threat of violence on April 20 and the swastikas. UCSC director of public information Jim Burns addressed the reasoning behind the distribution of the email to only a portion of the campus community.
“Whenever we discover graffiti of a threatening nature … we consider an appropriate security and communications response,” Burns said. “That doesn’t mean that we decide that communicating broadly about the specifics of each threat is always the best course of action.”
The university has not released details on what precautions it will be taking in light of the threat. Steve Clark, deputy chief of the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD), said that though it is typical for the SCPD to be privy to threats, it was not informed of this particular threat.
Courtney Burt, a third-year Porter College community assistant (CA), was surprised that Porter College was the only college on campus to receive the information about the violent threat.
“Porter is the only one privy to the knowledge?” she asked. “The whole school knew about the other [threat], so why doesn’t the whole school know about this one too? That’s not fair. Idle or not, it’s a threat.”
Burt also expressed concern with the possible implications of alerting the entire campus community to such threats.
“Then again, we also lose a lot of resources with the school taking it seriously,” she said. “I mean, there’s money that does go into covering this.”
Though the graffiti found in Porter comprises two distinct parts — the threat and the swastikas — Ali Rawson, a third-year Porter student, asserted that the two are related because Adolf Hitler’s birthday also falls on April 20.
“Yeah, I think [the threat] could be a hate crime too, against Jews in particular,” Rawson said. “Having swastikas on Hitler’s birthday, it’s really insulting.”
The Santa Cruz Sentinel mentioned the graffiti in a March 16 article on the current investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). UCSC Hebrew lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who filed the complaint, said that the Sentinel article may have provided the necessary motivation for the university to send out the email addressing the swastika graffiti.
“Three days went by before the chancellor said anything,” she said. “Had it not been for the Sentinel article, he might not have mentioned it at all. Chancellor Blumenthal’s response was too little too late.”
OCR is investigating an allegation that UCSC permitted anti-Semitism and created a hostile environment for Jewish students. Jim Bradshaw of the U.S. Department of Education Press Office confirmed the nature of the investigation, though he could not comment on specifics.
Rossman-Benjamin spoke of her concerns with how the university handles incidents of anti-Semitism, and cited the delayed response to this particular incident as an example of the university’s questionable priorities in dealing with hate crimes.
“I’m very sensitive to the double standard the UCSC administration takes in response to anti-Semitic acts in comparison to say, anti-African acts,” she said. “The chancellor sent out an email condemning the graffiti on Thursday, but the first graffiti was found on Monday. Why wait three days?”