Last week, two reportedly unrelated hate crimes shook the UC Davis community, echoing the recent racial turbulence within the University of California as a whole.
A swastika was carved onto the door of a Jewish student in the Tercero dormitories on Feb. 19. A week later, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center was the target of an attack when derogatory terms were spray-painted on the center’s front entrance, said Lt. Matthew Carmichael of the UC Davis Police Department.
The attacks add to the growing number of hate crimes recently experienced in the University of California system. Several weeks ago, members of a UC San Diego fraternity held a “Compton Cookout”-themed barbeque mocking Black History Month, and a noose was later found hanging in the campus library. At UC Irvine, a group of students attempted to disrupt the speech of the Israeli ambassador to the United States in early February. Many students consider the arrests to be associated with the recent controversy.
The acts gained widespread attention, prompting reaction from both UC and state authorities.
“I am deeply troubled by the horrific incidents that recently took place on various campuses of the University of California system,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Saturday press release.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi also condemned the acts in a letter released to the UC Davis community.
“We cannot ignore deliberate acts that demean and threaten others based on race, ethnicity, gender, national origin or any personal characteristics,” she said.
Carmichael echoed this concern, commenting on the alarming proximity of the two crimes at UC Davis.
“Every once in a while, graffiti will show up on campus, but it’s not a common occurrence for us,” he said.
No witnesses reported seeing the two inch swastika being carved into the wooden door in Tercero, and residents could not point to any obvious suspects.
“The victim doesn’t have any idea who might have done this,” Carmichael said. “She says everyone on the floor gets along really well.”
Meanwhile, the LGBTRC did not remove the vandalism immediately following the crime in an attempt to raise community awareness about the hatred present on campus, waiting until Monday night to paint over the graffiti.
“We feel it is easier to erase physical representations of violence than to heal from the ongoing impacts of this hatred,” said LGBTRC staff members in a letter to the community. “Erasing it makes it possible to avoid believing these things happen on our campus. We want to work towards a healing resolution.”
LGBTRC community intern Mark Yanez, a senior women and gender studies and sociology double major, said the attack on his home campus and workspace was traumatic, but not unprecedented.
“In my mind, someone saying ‘that’s so gay’ is the equivalent of this happening to the center,” he said. “[The vandalism] is a physical manifestation of homophobia on our campus.”
Leaders of the LGBTRC held an anti-hate rally yesterday in front of the Memorial Union at noon. Approximately 50 people attended. The rally was followed by a small march through campus.
A town hall meeting also took place Monday night in the ARC Ballroom, during which community leaders discussed possible reactions and plans to deal with the vandalism.
Though police are following several leads in both cases, they have yet to identify suspects. Anyone with information about these crimes is encouraged to contact the UC Davis Police Department at 752-1727.
MEGAN MURPHY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.