SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (AP/WWLP) – Three antisemitic incidents on the campus of Mount Holyoke College this fall appear to be the work of one student, the president of the prestigious women’s college in Massachusetts said in a statement to the campus community on Friday.

The most recent antisemitic act discovered earlier this week was described by the Anti-Defamation League in New England as a swastika and a racial slur targeting Jews. The graffiti, written in black marker on tile in a bathroom, was reported on Tuesday by a parent of a student, the civil rights organization’s deputy regional director, Peggy Shukur, said Thursday.

The ADL in October received two reports of swastikas and slurs written in bathrooms at the school, Shukur said.

“Based on all of the information that we have available to us, we believe that these incidents are the acts of an individual Mount Holyoke student who is living on campus,” Mount Holyoke President Sonya Stephens wrote in her statement posted on the South Hadley school’s website.

All three incidents were in the same residence hall, she said.

The handwritten Nazi symbol in the latest incident has been removed and local, state and federal law enforcement was informed, she said. Citing the ongoing investigation, she did not disclose any more details.

“I am compelled to express my deep disappointment and anger that a member of our Mount Holyoke community would commit such harmful and cowardly acts,” Stephens wrote. “The association of the specific drawings found were intended to convey the murderous legacy of the Nazi regime, antisemitism, hate and white supremacy — none of these have any place at Mount Holyoke or in the many international communities of which we are so much a part.”

The school has about 2,200 students, according to its website.

There have been several high-profile antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts this year. Last spring a Massachusetts high school football team was found to be using antisemitic language during its on-field play calling.

In the summer, a rabbi was stabbed outside a Jewish school in Boston and in October, a Jewish ornament known as a mezuzah was desecrated at Northeastern University’s Hillel House.


Antisemitic symbols on campus

December 10, 2021

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke Community,

Earlier this week, Mount Holyoke’s Public Safety and Service (PSS) received reports of a hand-drawn Nazi swastika in a residence hall bathroom. The College removed the symbol immediately, began to gather the evidence and launched a further investigation. In these instances, it is important to the integrity of the investigation that we conduct due diligence, notify local, state and federal authorities and clarify facts before making public statements. This morning, I write to provide an update on this evolving situation.

There have been three incidents in the same residence hall, and in all instances we have communicated immediately with local, state and federal law enforcement partners and continue to share information about the ongoing investigation. Based on all of the information that we have available to us, we believe that these incidents are the acts of an individual Mount Holyoke student who is living on campus. We find abhorrent, and take extremely seriously, such acts of hatred against fellow members of our community. We underscore the seriousness of any attack on our Jewish community, and reiterate that we have pursued, and will continue to pursue, the investigation with vigor and diligence. I hope that you will all understand that, due to the gravity of these acts, we need to continue this work in confidence and so must refrain from sharing the details of the investigation until or unless there is new information that we can report more publicly. I know that this is hard to accept and I thank you for your understanding and cooperation. 

In sharing this information with you now, we seek to keep you apprised, to protect all members of our community and to speak out against antisemitism. I am compelled to express my deep disappointment and anger that a member of our Mount Holyoke community would commit such harmful and cowardly acts. The association of the specific drawings found were intended to convey the murderous legacy of the Nazi regime, antisemitism, hate and white supremacy — none of these have any place at Mount Holyoke or in the many international communities of which we are so much a part. Whether these actions are the result of an embedded white supremacist on campus or some other motivation, we genuinely seek to understand and purposefully address these acts with any individual involved so that they end immediately. At the same time our focus is on compassion for and protection and support of Jewish community members.

Incidents like this one, and other discriminatory acts or symbols, should always be reported. Please use the Campus Insensitivity Reporting Form, or, for immediate attention, contact Public Safety and Service. We implore anyone with information regarding these specific incidents to come forward, so that we can end the pain and fear experienced in our community each and every time that the person responsible engages in such acts. 

For those who need support, please take advantage of the following resources:

Students can make use of the Counseling Services 24/7 hotline by calling 413-538-2037. 

Faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program at 888-881-5462.

The College has hosted several educational sessions and workshops on combating antisemitism and is planning to work with key organizations to host signicant educational sessions built into our required orientation sessions for students and racial justice programming and ongoing training of faculty and staff. We encourage everyone to consider the following educational resources from the Anti-Defamation League, Facing History and organizations, including Jews of Color, who regularly educate about antisemitism, how to disrupt it and provide support to Jewish people for those who seek to become better allies in this continuing fight. 

Combating Antisemitism in the 21st Century 

The Roots and Impact of Antisemitism 

Interrupting Antisemitism 

Jews of Color Initiative

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice 

I, along with the College’s leadership team, understand the provocation that this symbol represents on our campus and in the lives of Jewish students, faculty, staff and alums, as well as in the broader racially diverse Jewish community, among our Black and Indigenous community members and others from historically marginalized and frequently targeted communities.

I join you in the grief of his moment and situation, and in unwavering action in this work to oppose hatred and discrimination. You have my assurance that we will continue to pursue the avenues opened by the intentional and committed investigative work.

We extend to the Jewish community of Mount Holyoke College, and everywhere, our heartfelt support, our love and compassion and our solidarity with you.

Sonya