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Investigation into Davis swastikas continues

A swastika is painted on a UC Davis-affiliated Jewish fraternity house.
A swastika is painted on a UC Davis-affiliated Jewish fraternity house. Courtsey of Jonah Versman

As a police probe into swastikas and graffiti on an off-campus Jewish fraternity house continued in Davis, members Monday said they are trying to move past the ugly incident.

“We’re still students first,” said Alpha Epsilon Pi spokesman Nathaniel Bernhard, a third-year student in economics and political science.

Bernhard said members of the fraternity house, directly across Russell Boulevard from the UC Davis campus, are trying to focus on studies and have met with university officials. Student groups have also reached out to the fraternity in the days since the discovery.

“It’s nice to know you’re not alone,” Bernhard said. “We definitely appreciate it.”

Reaction to the vandalism has been swift in the days since Alpha Epsilon Pi members discovered the anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on an exterior wall of their house early Saturday. UC Davis officials quickly condemned the graffiti as “an affront to us all,” and a “gross violation of the values our university holds dear.”

Student organizations from across the UC Davis campus, professors, campus labor representatives and student leaders also condemned the incident in a joint statement, denouncing the vandalism as a reminder that “anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of hate ... still exists and (is) rampant transnationally and on our university campuses.”

The anti-Semitic graffiti came days after an Associated Students of UC Davis Senate resolution Jan. 22 urged the UC’s Board of Regents to divest “from corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” naming construction equipment conglomerate Caterpillar Inc. and defense contractor Raytheon, among other firms.

Senate Resolution 9, as it is known, was approved Jan. 29 by the ASUCD Senate on an 8-2 vote. Two student senators abstained. The graffiti was discovered two days later.

But student leaders said neither Senate Resolution 9 nor the campus’ divestment movement should bear blame for the weekend incident.

“We reject any attempts to blame this on any single student community, including the UC Davis Divestment movement,” the students’ statement read, calling for authorities to hold responsible those who vandalized the fraternity house.

Bernhard downplayed the timing between the divestment vote and the swastika incident.

“It’s tough to have it all (happen) in one week, but a direct link is unfair,” Bernhard said Monday.

Students reacted with surprise at the weekend vandalism and resolved on Monday to put an end to hate.

Kendall Bowen, a third-year mathematics major, said outside the campus’ Memorial Union that students are banding together to say “how we won’t stand for it as a school and as a student body. This isn’t something we’re OK with.”

“I didn’t know things like that still happened,” said Kimberly Chong, a third-year neurobiology major. “This is a college and to do that, it’s just not fair. Things like that shouldn’t happen. One person can’t change it, but our campus has to come together.”

Meantime, Davis investigators continue to investigate the vandalism, police officials said Monday. The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the hate crime, police said.

The university has seen hate crimes before. In August 2013, during the week of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., vandals smashed more than 30 windows on campus and scrawled a racial slur on a chalkboard at Dutton Hall. That building houses the financial aid office, student judicial affairs and other services.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi condemned the acts, and police investigated the incident as a hate crime.

In 2010, Katehi sought to make UC Davis a “hate-free campus,” rolling out a series of steps to tackle intolerance on campus.

That became the campus-wide “Hate-Free Campus Initiative,” consisting of educational programs and training designed to “confront and stop acts of hate.”

Anyone with information can call the Davis Police Department at (530) 747-5400.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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