Response to snow-made swastikas should have ended at clearing of defamed trees

To the Editor:

Why did the whole campus have to learn about the swastikas?

Last weekend, swastikas and other Nazi symbols appeared in snow on two trees on Old Campus. In his e-mail to the student body that described the incident, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey encouraged anyone discovering a similar incident to report it to University Police.

On the contrary, don’t report the symbols — just rub the snow off the trees.

Consider potential motivations for the incident in question. The perpetrator may have lacked judgment, carrying out the infantile stunt on impulse or on a dare. In this case, the University community is blowing the incident out of proportion, for the anxiety induced by the act does not match the intention of the actor. Perhaps the perpetrator was attempting to broadcast dissatisfaction with the Jewish community on campus. In this case, he may be deluded that his message is getting through, when it belongs in a signed opinion piece on this page. Most likely, the perpetrator aimed to evoke a response out of the community, glorying in his ability to strike unease into its mind. In this case, the broad dissemination of the incident completed the purpose of the act.

What do we get in reporting snow swastikas? Anxiety, a flurry of articles and ineffectual messages from administrators. If we rub the snow off, we limit the consequences of poor judgment, demand that dissatisfaction be expressed in a forum that allows reasoned debate, and frustrate the designs of would-be saboteurs.

Peter Johnston

Feb. 25

The writer is a junior in Saybrook College. He is a staff columnist for the News.

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