By Emma Talley
A bench in the Stanford Arch on Palm Drive at El Camino Real was defaced with a deceased rat on top of what appeared to be a Star of David on Wednesday.
Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) spokesperson Bill Larson told The Daily that the incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Currently, there are no suspects, he said.
The drawing was approximately seven inches in diameter, drawn with a black marker. Larson said it “contained several symbols, including a hexagram of possibly a Star of David, with a letter or symbol resembling an ‘A’ and what appears to be an upside-down ‘t’ or an inverted cross inside the star. A dead rodent had been placed on top of the graffiti.”
He also told The Daily that SUDPS has been in contact with “non-university resources in an effort to determine what the symbols might represent.”
President Marc Tessier-Lavigne told students that the bench “contained symbols that are unclear in intention but could be taken as being anti-Semitic in nature” at a conversation with the President and the Provost held Thursday.
“We stand against anti-Semitism and all expressions of hatred against others,” he said. “We know that other members of our community have experienced acts of intolerance as well. And again, I want to be clear. Every member of our community has a place here, and no crude drawing, whatever its intention, can change that.”
University spokesperson EJ Miranda clarified the President’s comments, saying his focus was on “condemnation of anti-Semitism.”
“Multiple symbols were used in what was left on the bench, and it was unclear what some of them meant,” he said. “His purpose was to make it clear that whatever those details, any symbol that can be taken as an expression of anti-Semitism is not welcome on our campus.”
He also told The Daily that, “in addition to the police investigation, the University is also reaching out to members of our Jewish community regarding the incident, and we are continuing to work with campus partners to seek ways of effectively addressing hate and bias on our campus, which continue to affect many communities.”
Reverend Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, dean of the Office of Religious Life, told The Daily that the symbols harkened to multiple religions, and her office had been contacted in an effort to understand what they could mean and the intent of the person who left them.
“Anytime a symbol important to a group, such as the Star of David, is represented in a way that may cause fear on the part of those who view it, it is of deep concern, and we take it extremely seriously,” she said.
Courtney Cooperman and Jonah Glick-Unterman, co-presidents of the Jewish Student Association, expressed frustration at the prevalence of several anti-Semitic symbols which have cropped up at Stanford.
“We are horrified to see what appears to be another act of hatred on our campus, fitting within a broader pattern of instances that have threatened racial, ethnic, and religious minority communities this year,” they wrote in a joint statement to The Daily, urging the campus community to treat the incident with severity. “It is imperative that Stanford take meaningful steps to prioritize the safety of the Jewish community, alongside all those who are targeted by hatred and bigotry.”
A previous version of this article misquoted Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in the sixth paragraph. He did not say “no matter our intention,” but rather “whatever its intention.” The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Emma Talley at emmat332 ‘at’ stanford.edu.