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Hate crimes hit Beloit College

Update: An arrest has been made in association with the Islamophobic hate crime.

A series of hate crimes hit Beloit College within the past week, with students of minority faiths and ethnicities being targeted by vicious slurs and swastikas.

The latest of these took place early this morning, when a Beloit security officer discovered the words “Die,” “Sand nigger go home” and “#muslimban” sprayed painted in red onto a student’s door on the second floor of Bushnell Hall. Additionally, there was swastika sprayed painted on a wall across the hall.

The Beloit Police Department were notified and are actively investigating the scene of the hate crime.

In an email to the student body, President Scott Bierman wrote, “Our campus cannot operate with ‘business as usual’ at this moment. I ask that all classes today and tomorrow take these acts on directly. I ask that staff and faculty use their time together with students to remind them how important and valued they are and how important it is to lean on one other. Remind each other of the importance of speaking up when you see or hear something that could be linked to a hate or bias incident. Help each other understand the forces of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and how they can be countered. Listen to each other and draw from others their wisdom, generosity, and different ways of coming to understand the world around us.”

This Bushnell incident follows two earlier hate related incidents that occurred this past week at Beloit College, both within Peet Hall. Both acts — which targeted the same student — also featured drawn swastikas.

The second Peet incident, which occurred just before 11 p.m. on Friday evening, involved a note being placed under a student’s door. The note read, “Kike, You should be gassed for what you say & do on this campus. Be worried CUNT.” The text emphasis is that of its author and not The Round Table. A large swastika was drawn alongside the note’s text. The act coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This incident followed another event earlier in the week, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, when a swastika was drawn on the dry erase board on the door of the same student.

According to an email from Director of Security Bruce Heine, the Beloit Police Department was notified of these incidents and they are actively investigating. Heine added that “additional security staff have been put on duty and there will be increased patrols on the residential side of campus.”

As a result of these acts, ID card access to the residential halls has been restricted, allowing students to only enter their particular building. Security cameras are also being installed within Peet Hall, and there will be an increased security presence on the residential side of Beloit’s campus. At least for the time being, a barricade has been placed in the tunnels of the ‘64 halls, meaning Peet Hall is not accessible from Blaisdell and Bushnell halls and vice versa.

The resident assistants of Peet Hall also called emergency floor meetings on Saturday afternoon to discuss the incident. They encouraged their residents to report any suspicious activity around the dorm, and not let any non-residents into Peet Hall, regardless of their status as a student, unless they had a valid reason to be there.

“The multiple ways this batters the community members who are targeted can only be fully appreciated by those who have been victims of such targeting,” wrote Bierman in a message sent out to the campus community early on Saturday morning. “I cannot fathom what motivates someone to engage in such atrocities. Behavior like this is completely antithetical to all this community stands for and cannot be tolerated.”

Will Tomer/The Round Table

In an email sent out to Peet Hall residents, Assistant Director of Residential Life Sarah Coyer wrote that the investigation process will rely heavily upon student witnesses. “As members of the Peet community it is possible that you may have seen or heard something that would assist us in this investigation process,” Coyer wrote. “I would like to ask that if you have any information to please email me and let me know, or I would be happy to schedule a meeting with you to discuss in person. Even small details can be helpful.”

Other voices in administration, including Dean of Students Christina Klawitter, verbalized their anger at these acts.

“I am sickened by this act of hatred,” Klawitter told The Round Table. “The ways in which it directly and specifically threatens valued community members, and the ways it threatens our confidence in this community, is antithetical to Beloit’s mission. Our focus now is on caring for the student who was directly targeted, and others who are feeling affected; on taking steps to enhance security; and on pursuing information that will allow us to hold someone accountable for this horrific act.  

“Recently, a student asked me what I imagine for us at Beloit,” Klawitter continued. “The answer is: I imagine us being brave. Brave enough to stand up to hate; brave enough to listen to those who are hurting; brave enough to learn where we are ignorant; brave enough to challenge the structures that still allow hatred a place at our table. That’s what I imagine for Beloit; this vision feels evermore urgent right now.”

Provost & Dean of the College Ann Davies echoed Klawitter’s sentiments, as she expressed how deeply disturbed she was by the act, while highlighting the strength and resiliency of the student body.

“This hate crime was a direct threat to the safety of one our students,” said Davies in a statement to The Round Table. “Its ripples also run wider and deeper in ways that are inimical to our academic community. This kind of cowardly act threatens to intimidate, devalue, and silence marginalized groups, undermining everything this college stands for.

Will Tomer/The Round Table

“I’m also a firm believer in the resilience of the Beloit College community and its members,” Davies continued. “Let’s not be silent. Let’s listen to one another so we can understand how people are feeling and the kind of support we can offer. Let’s understand the threats posed by anti-Semitism and misogyny, and the ways they can be resisted. We need to, and can do, this work to protect our learning community and its mission.”

“Congregation B’nai Abraham in Beloit would like to offer an official statement of support to students on campus regarding the hateful act that took place on Friday,” wrote Megan Miller of the Congregation B’nai Abraham.

“Your local Jewish community extends its support to students and our congregation is always open to you as a safe space,” Miller continued. “We denounce anti-Semitism on campus along with all other hateful sentiments.”
This is the first major hate crime to take place at Beloit College since Feb. 2015 when security officers discovered the words “Die niggers” spray painted on a public wall on the residential side of Beloit’s campus. The latest incidents, however, have directly targeted specific students for their faith or ethnicity.

Amongst the student body, the events have brought a wide range of emotions and reactions. Ethan Perel-Wertman’20, who is Jewish, expressed his disgust with the acts while hoping it could bring students together against intolerance.

“I am repulsed and devastated that such a hateful act was committed on our campus, said Perel-Wertman. “I hope this can serve as a wake up call to the Beloit community that anti-Semitism is a real problem that continues to exist in our country. In the coming days and weeks I will be working with other student to launch a group to advocate to Jewish students on campus and educate people about anti-Semitism.”

Theta Pi Gamma, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Alpha Sigma Tau hung signs of support on their respective houses, adorning College Street in messages of tolerance, respect and unity. Other Greek life organizations have plans to add to the displays throughout the week.

Brett Phillips’20 echoed the call for unity, urging that the ensuing weeks be more about growth and unity than division.

“I think right now, it’s most important to listen to Jewish voices on campus,” Phillips said. “It’s crucial not to turn this incident into a witchhunt that reaches it’s climax by finding one person. Anti-Semitism is systematic and didn’t just start with one note, so it won’t be solved outright by locating this person…Making the event centered around finding the culprit instead of dealing with the underlying issues is taking away from Jewish people voicing concerns about anti-Semitism.”

Brad Star contributed reporting.

The Round Table has received a statement regarding the recent hate crimes from Trustee Stopher Bartol’88.

Today I found myself 2,000 miles from Beloit, on business, but quite consumed by events on campus via various sources including the reporting being done by The Round Table online.

I’m now a trustee, yes. But in 1984 I was a white kid from a then-homogenous Wisconsin town up the road. Beloit College was my introduction to the rest of the world – Jews, blacks, gays, socialists, capitalists, Malaysians, just to mention a few. Beloit’s diversity was and continues to be part of what makes it special. For me, it was a treasure. It made me a better and happier person, and it most certainly helped prepare me to build and run a diverse global Internet media company.

We all live in the same world, and those who are paying attention realize that hate is all too commonplace in our country today. Yet still, my first reaction to learning of these campus incidents was shock, sadness, and anger – and of course concern for those targeted. I felt this same way two years ago when the campus experienced similar acts. This simply isn’t the Beloit I know and remember. My next reaction was that such hate crimes don’t really define Beloit College at all, in fact the very reason they are so dispiriting is that they took place on this campus. What does and will define the college is how we respond. It’s the “Don’t Fuck w/ Our Sisters” sign in front of Theta (and others elsewhere); the campus-wide gathering at Flood Arena; the additional security measures; the determination of the president, provost, dean of students, faculty, and most importantly the student body, to passionately say that this won’t be tolerated.

We can’t ultimately stop hate from finding its way to campus, but we can reject it when it arrives, and as someone who truly loves the college I was heartened today to see its response.

Stopher Bartol
Class of 1988

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