Reports of antisemitic and racist acts of intolerance on the UMBC campus have continued to rise since the beginning of the academic year.
Campus police have investigated four of these incidents since the beginning of October, all of which have consisted of swastikas etched onto various surfaces and the depiction of other racist symbols. These surfaces include a pumpkin, a desk in a lecture hall, a bathroom stall and a white board inside a resident hall.
An email was sent out on Oct. 27 regarding an incident in one of the residential halls. John Fox, the Director of Residential Life sent out an email to all Potomac Hall residents regarding “racist imagery and gender-based discriminatory content” that was found on a white board.
A similar incident occurred in another residential hall a week before on Oct. 18. In Susquehanna Hall, a swastika was drawn on the pumpkin of residents after they left a note asking students to not vandalize their pumpkin.
Deputy Chief of Police Paul Dillon say his department has investigated the incidents.
“My detective has done four interviews already and he has a few more to do” said Dillon. “We take these incidents very seriously and we investigate each one that is reported.”
While campus police have been investigating, it is difficult to investigate possible suspects due to the lack of security cameras and eye-witnesses in the areas where the incidents took place.
“I have very few leads to go off of,” continued Dillon. “There are no cameras or evidence so to speak besides the pictures.”
In the current political climate, Dillon said that it is not uncommon for there to be spikes in these kinds of incidences. However, some students fear that these occurrences could be the beginning of larger acts of violence on the UMBC campus.
UMBC police has partnered with the Mosaic Center to address this growing issue and respond to the concerns of students.
“We educate, we provide support, and we advocate for students of all different backgrounds, particularly students who may need an extra forum of support as a result of the identities that they carry,” said Lisa Gray, Assistant Director of Cultural and Spiritual Diversity.
A problem that campus officials have encountered is in the reporting of the incidents: students often do not know where or to whom they should report them. Subsequently, students may be apprehensive about reporting these issues to the authorities because of the fear of not knowing what may happen after their report.
“We see a need for people to have more access to reporting procedures if they see these acts of intolerance taking place,” said Gray. The Mosaic Center and campus police hope to address this issue through the implementation of educational programs.
The Mosaic Center hopes to create an event to discuss these issues, followed by educational resources to distribute throughout the campus. Topics to be addressed include free speech, hate speech, and first amendment rights, according to Gray.
“We hope to create a safer campus community with each resource that we offer.”