January 27, 2006

Anti-Semitic statements found on Hitchcock dorm room whiteboard

On Wednesday night, an assistant resident head in Hitchcock House found “racist and anti-Semitic” comments written on a whiteboard outside the dorm room of two male first-years in the College, according to a prepared response by Steve Klass, dean of students in the College.

Klass would not provide specific information about the contents of the message or the ethnicity of the residents. Hitchcock staff members were unwilling to comment on the incident.

The University Administration was alerted to the event Thursday morning by a Hitchcock resident head (RH). Klass said that the administration is taking swift action in response to the writings, and he added that he hopes for a “strong and unified” response from the University community.

Hitchcock staff held a house meeting on Thursday night in the house lounge, led by Jeremy and Robin Veenstra-Vanderweele, Hitchcock’s RHs. The meeting was closed to the press, and multiple attempts to contact Hitchcock residents were unsuccessful.

Klass expressed frustration about the writings. “It’s not the way you’d like the world to be,” he said.

“If it was meant to be a joke, it’s not funny,” he added. “This is taken with the utmost seriousness.”

Given the recent community conversation on diversity, the incident was especially disappointing, Klass said. “All the issues that surround diversity were high on the dialogue,” he added.

Jon Hirsch, president of Chicago Friends of Israel (CFI), had similar sentiments.

“It’s unfortunate that year after year anti-Semitic and racist acts continue on campus,” he said. “We should expect better from our fellow students.”

Repeatedly over the past several years, CFI posters have been targeted with anti-Semitic drawings and writings.

Administrators do not know who wrote the message.

Klass did not explain what disciplinary actions would be taken, saying that, “It really depends on understanding a lot of the details that happened.”

Rabbi David Rosenberg, the director of the Johanna and Herman H. Newberger Hillel Center, urged the perpetrator or perpetrators to come forward.

“I’m very sad this happened,” Rosenberg said. He said he hoped the administration would show that such acts are “not considered acceptable by any means.”

“I think it’s important for the University to—as in any case like this—show concern for the student who owned that whiteboard,” Rosenberg added.

Hirsch also emphasized the need for a direct administrative response, saying the University should “make sure this won’t happen again with an aggressive education campaign.”

A statement from the Office of the Dean of Students

January 26, 2006

Dear University of Chicago Students:

I received a report this morning that, last night, racist and anti-semitic remarks were written on a whiteboard attached to the door of a student’s dorm room. Housing staff discovered this situation and immediately began the process of determining how this occurred and who is responsible. They have notified the House in which the event took place and are actively providing support for the community. That process continues as I write this.

This conduct is a violation of Housing, University and community standards. Any form of abusive, threatening or harassing behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I am particularly disturbed that this act follows the very-public discussions of these matters that began last quarter and continues to this day. I am working closely with the appropriate University offices in pursuing this as a serious incident of racial and ethnic harassment.

I would like to remind students who have witnessed or have been the victim of this or similar incidents that you have a variety of support resources available. A list of these University resources can be found in the “‘Voices of Our Community’ Diversity, Civility, and Equity Resource Guide” which is also available on-line at


Steve Klass

Vice-President and Dean

of Students in the University