The Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity was the target of “crude, offensive graffiti, including swastikas,” spray painted onto its house early in the morning on Sunday, Oct. 5, according to an Oct. 5 University press release.
In an email to the Emory community, University President James W. Wagner condemned the act, which occurred merely hours after the end of Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish faith, as “a repugnant, flagrant emblem of anti-Semitism,” that is not only an offense to the fraternity and Emory’s Jewish community, but also the entire University.
“Among the many pernicious things the swastika symbolizes, in the last century it represented the most egregious and determined undermining of intellectual freedom and truth-seeking,” Wagner wrote. “In short, its appearance on our campus is an attack against everything for which Emory stands.”
Additionally, a second set of swastikas was sprayed onto the stone wall outside of the Kappa Alpha (KA) house Monday morning. Both sets of swastikas were quickly scrubbed off by Campus Services.
Emory’s AEPi issued a statement on behalf of the entire fraternity thanking the community for its support as well as outrage at what it calls an insensitive display of prejudice.
“We are working alongside Emory to ensure that intolerable acts of hate, such as this, will never occur again,” the statement reads. “We are thankful for the community around us that has shown tremendous support throughout this time.”
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair wrote in an email to the Wheel that he is deeply disturbed and angered by this incident.
“During my short time at Emory, I’ve learned that we have the ability to grow and develop as a community even in our most difficult moments,” Nair wrote. “I’m sure that Emory’s true character will prevail.”
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) released a statement of solidarity Sunday night, calling the swastikas a horrific violation of the values of the member organizations.
“The Emory fraternal system works to promote an inclusive and tolerant community,” the statement reads. “IFC remains committed to working with organizations across campus in helping to foster a more inclusive environment.”
Many Emory students and organizations have taken to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to express their take on the situation.
In a Facebook post, College junior Katie Fishbein wrote that seeing the image of swastikas on the AEPi house was terrifying and not in line with the openness and tolerance she experienced on Emory’s campus.
“In my heart of hearts, I know that most Emory students stand for peace and acceptance,” Fishbein wrote. “Make it your personal duty to ensure that ALL students can feel welcomed and loved at Emory … May this be the last act of intolerance that we experience on Emory’s campus.”
A statement from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) offered a staunch rejection of what it calls an anti-Semitic message.
“SJP at Emory condemns the recent and abhorrent act of vandalism … [and] categorically rejects anti-[S]emitism, which is just as egregious as anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and all other forms of racism and bigotry,” the statement read. “All of these forms of hate dehumanize people, and as advocates for justice and human rights we are committed to speaking out against injustice wherever it appears.”
The Student Government Association (SGA), sent an email Sunday night inviting the Emory community to wear blue on Monday to support Emory’s Jewish community and in condemnation of the “reprehensible act of bigotry” carried out.
Omega Psi Phi fraternity released a similar statement on Sunday:
“In this moment of hardship, The Brothers of the Pi Delta Delta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity stand with the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi. No one should have to be a victim of injustice and micro-aggressions simply for being who they are. This statement is not for likes, but to shine a light on the ignorance and hate that continues to plague Emory.”
College junior Molly Teplitzky, who works with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), wrote in an email to the Wheel that despite the lack of anti-Semitism in the United States compared to other countries, there is still work to be done.
“I certainly will not accept this act of hatred to be pushed under the rug and forgotten in the near future, and I hope the University and Emory community will stand to make a change,” Teplitzky wrote. “No act against any group should be accepted, and I am thankful for the support the Emory campus has shown, from President Wagner’s address to the Student Government promoting the [U]niversity to wear blue in solidarity with the Jewish community.”
While there has been heavy outpouring of support from across campus, some students questioned the University’s response to other incidents that have occurred on Emory’s campus in years past compared to its response in this case.
In a blog post titled “To AEPi Fraternity and the Greater Emory Community,” Emory alum Malaika Nicholas (’14C) asked where this level of community outreach was during incidents such as the racially insensitive comments on the student satire program “The Dooley Show” and President Wagner’s controversial Three-Fifths Compromise article.
“I’ve witnessed offensive statements and racial prejudice on Emory’s campus, but I’ve never — in my four years there — seen a [U]niversity-wide response like this to [an] incident with any other marginalized community on campus,” Nicholas wrote. “There are SEVERAL cultural, racial, gender and religious groups on campus that have never received the same call-to-action response from the university administration, and yet have faced blatant displays of prejudice or daily micro aggressions.”
Nicholas went on to write that students who show solidarity with AEPi should “reciprocate and show solidarity for other marginalized groups on campus that have experienced ‘abhorrent,’ ‘crude,’ ‘offensive,’ ‘egregious,’ insensitive displays of prejudice as well,” quoting several reactions to this incident.
College sophomore Feven Laine said instances such as these are an appalling violation of Emory’s diverse and inclusive community.
“The swastika shouldn’t merely offend Jews because what it represents is offensive to humanity, in general; it is widely known as a symbol of oppression and hate,” Laine said. “That being said, moving forward, I hope that the Emory community is just as outspoken about acts of intolerance aimed at any group of people, as it is being in light of this event.”
This article was updated Oct. 6 to reflect an extended version of the article printed in the Oct. 7 issue of the Wheel. The statement from SJP was also updated to include parts that were inadvertently omitted.
This article was updated at 1:07 a.m. on Oct. 6 to include statements from Omega Psi Phi fraternity, SGA, SJP, College junior Molly Teplitzky and College junior Katie Fishbein.
Stephen Fowler 16C is the political reporter at Georgia Public Broadcasting, the statewide NPR affiliate in Georgia. He graduated from Emory with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and covered the central administration and Greek Life for the Wheel before serving as assistant news editor, Emory Life editor and the Executive Digital Editor from 2015-16.