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Susan Estrich: Swastikas on campus is a danger

From the commentary: The antisemitism on college campuses coincides with a troubling rise in anti-Israel sentiment.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
Tribune graphic


It was the third incident in three weeks. The first two were on men's room bathrooms, where swastikas and ugly words were scratched on the walls. Then there was the whiteboard outside a student's dorm room, with a swastika and a picture of Adolf Hitler, posted while the student was sleeping.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
Tribune graphic
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"It's really making this living situation feel pretty hostile to me," said the student. "It's very unsettling thinking that I was in my room sleeping and someone was outside of my door doing this."

"Unsettling" is an understatement.

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A little bit of hate on campus goes a long way.

Where is it coming from?

"Vandalizing property particularly with words intended to threaten and intimidate individuals (specifically in this case Black and Jewish communities) is contrary to Stanford's values," the university said in a statement. "It is absolutely unacceptable in our community."

But there it is.

The unacceptable must be dealt with.

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Stanford University is saying all the right things. The university has a history of antisemitism that it has long since buried. It has made clear that hate has no place on its campus. A meeting is being held in the dorm for the students to discuss the impact on the community. Hopefully, the students will be reassured. As much as they can be. The world is full of hate, and it seeps in to even institutions determined to stand against it.

But saying the right things doesn't solve the problem. A little hate goes a long way. It makes everyone feel unsettled. It must be dealt with.

There are triggers.

There are worries.

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Will there be copycats?

Will others be targeted?

Is this symptomatic of a wider problem?

Are there more serious threats to be concerned about?

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The antisemitism on college campuses coincides with a troubling rise in anti-Israel sentiment. The two cannot be divorced, much as some try to do so. It puts students in a difficult, awkward, uncomfortable position. Universities must stand firm.

Cowards. They operate in secret. They spread fear and insecurity. They bring up awful memories of past sins.

No student should go to sleep at night and wonder what is being written on a whiteboard outside his room.

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No college is immune.

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Anonymous hate is like a cancer in our midst. You look around, not knowing who to distrust. Community is destroyed. Trust is destroyed. Just a little bit of hate is all that it takes.

This time it was Stanford. It could be anywhere. Or everywhere. Just a little hate goes a long way.

This Susan Estrich commentary is her opinion. She can be reached at sestrich@wctrib.com.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via sestrich@wctrib.com.
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