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.

Comments

  • Recent alum

    Well said, Mr. Johnson. Why do we think that others are responsible for setting the limits on campus life?

  • Recent alum

    Well said, Mr. Johnson. Why do we think that others are responsible for setting the limits on campus life?

  • Anonymous

    Salovey is doing the right thing. After the violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention act of 2007 passes the floor of the senate we will all have to report speech offenses to the appropriate authorities.

  • Anonymous

    Salovey is doing the right thing. After the violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention act of 2007 passes the floor of the senate we will all have to report speech offenses to the appropriate authorities.

  • Keith

    Yes, that's the perfect solution. Just ignore it and it will go away, never to return again.
    Anti-Semitism is not an attention-seeking toddler that will go and mope in the corner if we do not acknowledge its presence. Internalizing disturbing images doesn't make them disappear. And neither does "rubbing the snow off the trees," painting over graffiti, or otherwise erasing offensive messages.
    Trivializing this incident as an "infantile stunt" is dangerous and foolish. The presence of the SS symbol in addition to the Swastika (which you conveniently ignored) proves as much. So does the precision and care with which the symbols were constructed. Someone acting "on a dare" would hardly spend the time to construct such a detailed Swastika, let alone an accurate SS symbol.
    We cannot sweep this under the rug and act as though anti-Semitism is not a real problem that must be addressed. What is the best solution to this problem? I'm not sure, but calling attention to its existence is a good first step, and ignoring it certainly will not solve anything.

  • Keith

    Yes, that's the perfect solution. Just ignore it and it will go away, never to return again.
    Anti-Semitism is not an attention-seeking toddler that will go and mope in the corner if we do not acknowledge its presence. Internalizing disturbing images doesn't make them disappear. And neither does "rubbing the snow off the trees," painting over graffiti, or otherwise erasing offensive messages.
    Trivializing this incident as an "infantile stunt" is dangerous and foolish. The presence of the SS symbol in addition to the Swastika (which you conveniently ignored) proves as much. So does the precision and care with which the symbols were constructed. Someone acting "on a dare" would hardly spend the time to construct such a detailed Swastika, let alone an accurate SS symbol.
    We cannot sweep this under the rug and act as though anti-Semitism is not a real problem that must be addressed. What is the best solution to this problem? I'm not sure, but calling attention to its existence is a good first step, and ignoring it certainly will not solve anything.

  • Anonymous

    @ keith, I agree that anti-Semitism is a real problem, but in other parts of the world, not at Yale.
    Quite simply, the snow swastika is worth trivializing because Yale is a decidedly philo-Semitic environment. In my four years here, I as a Jewish student have never once felt threatened or insulted by any action that has occurred on campus. It is incredibly foolish to blow this thing out of proportion and view Yale in a similar light as certain middle eastern countries where anti-Semitism is a real problem.

  • Anonymous

    @ keith, I agree that anti-Semitism is a real problem, but in other parts of the world, not at Yale.
    Quite simply, the snow swastika is worth trivializing because Yale is a decidedly philo-Semitic environment. In my four years here, I as a Jewish student have never once felt threatened or insulted by any action that has occurred on campus. It is incredibly foolish to blow this thing out of proportion and view Yale in a similar light as certain middle eastern countries where anti-Semitism is a real problem.

  • Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly with you on this one, Peter, as well as you, #4. We would have been much better off had someone just wiped the snow away and the media (YDN) just ignored it. On that note, I disagree emphatically with Keith (#3) that there is anything particularly dangerous about such an approach. This campus has seen an annoyingly persistent series of tasteless images (some rightfully called hate speech), and the attention lavished upon each incident has reliably blown each incident out of proportion. So, I find it easy to believe that the perpetrator of these Nazi symbols (and, incidentally, the Swastika was improperly drawn) just took advantage of the strong likelihood that any such act would easily and reliably irk the Administration and the over-enthused liberal activists who seize any opportunity to cry oppression and hate.

    Yes, this incident proves nothing but the obviously sad state of zealous liberal over-sensitivity in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity. Granted, I agree with the inherent goodness of tolerance and diversity, and these are things we ought to encourage and be proud of, however it's worth mentioning that all the whining over every hateful or questionable incident bears marked similarity to the effect of the media contributing to greater terrorism by giving so much attention to those whose actions clearly evidence their craving for it. It also fosters the impression that such outcries are largely tedious and overdone, which would be a sad mindset to have should any of us face actual instances of oppression and hate. Put simply, deny the perpetrators the attention, and it all becomes pointless. I see no need to extrapolate pointlessly from any incident and plague the student body with self-righteous rants about "standing up against bigotry" or whatever other catch phrases are being thrown around these days. That goes for the racist and homophobic graffiti (even though I could easily claim personal offense to both due to my own characteristics/history/whatever), the grossly misrepresented WC incident, and this current one.

    Just ignore it, or at least don't hype it. It's beneath us all. If people get off on this sort of thing, then they'll probably continue to do so, and we'll deny them the satisfaction of knowing they got to us with their idiocy. As I've said concerning earlier incidents/articles, it's just not that serious, and most of us are better than that. Let this sort of trash (e.g. the snow images) end where it began: in the shadows of the lunatic fringes of society. It's honestly worth no more than that.

  • Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly with you on this one, Peter, as well as you, #4. We would have been much better off had someone just wiped the snow away and the media (YDN) just ignored it. On that note, I disagree emphatically with Keith (#3) that there is anything particularly dangerous about such an approach. This campus has seen an annoyingly persistent series of tasteless images (some rightfully called hate speech), and the attention lavished upon each incident has reliably blown each incident out of proportion. So, I find it easy to believe that the perpetrator of these Nazi symbols (and, incidentally, the Swastika was improperly drawn) just took advantage of the strong likelihood that any such act would easily and reliably irk the Administration and the over-enthused liberal activists who seize any opportunity to cry oppression and hate.

    Yes, this incident proves nothing but the obviously sad state of zealous liberal over-sensitivity in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity. Granted, I agree with the inherent goodness of tolerance and diversity, and these are things we ought to encourage and be proud of, however it's worth mentioning that all the whining over every hateful or questionable incident bears marked similarity to the effect of the media contributing to greater terrorism by giving so much attention to those whose actions clearly evidence their craving for it. It also fosters the impression that such outcries are largely tedious and overdone, which would be a sad mindset to have should any of us face actual instances of oppression and hate. Put simply, deny the perpetrators the attention, and it all becomes pointless. I see no need to extrapolate pointlessly from any incident and plague the student body with self-righteous rants about "standing up against bigotry" or whatever other catch phrases are being thrown around these days. That goes for the racist and homophobic graffiti (even though I could easily claim personal offense to both due to my own characteristics/history/whatever), the grossly misrepresented WC incident, and this current one.

    Just ignore it, or at least don't hype it. It's beneath us all. If people get off on this sort of thing, then they'll probably continue to do so, and we'll deny them the satisfaction of knowing they got to us with their idiocy. As I've said concerning earlier incidents/articles, it's just not that serious, and most of us are better than that. Let this sort of trash (e.g. the snow images) end where it began: in the shadows of the lunatic fringes of society. It's honestly worth no more than that.

  • Anonymous

    @ #3

    Well, if you read literature on the issue like Malcom Gladwell's "Tipping Point," it turns out that, if you do just paint over the graffiti, then it probably does have a huge impact. But then again, why examine actual research when we have our gut reactions and unquestioned popular wisdom that has its own moral agenda?

  • Anonymous

    @ #3

    Well, if you read literature on the issue like Malcom Gladwell's "Tipping Point," it turns out that, if you do just paint over the graffiti, then it probably does have a huge impact. But then again, why examine actual research when we have our gut reactions and unquestioned popular wisdom that has its own moral agenda?

  • Anonymous

    probably off topic, but Malcom Gladwell's writings hardly qualify as authoritative literature on any issue, much less one of this magnitude.

  • Anonymous

    probably off topic, but Malcom Gladwell's writings hardly qualify as authoritative literature on any issue, much less one of this magnitude.

  • Anonymous

    @ #4 + 5 you may not feel threatened, but others do. Does your nonchalance
    make their sentiments towards the issue irrational? If someone insulted, offended or hurt you in public and people just ignored it, how would you feel? You say antisemitism doesn't exist at Yale, things like this happen. Yes, they're stupid and infantile, and you and I are above that, but some people aren't. If it's not addressed, those few who are racist, anti-semitic, and what have you, will take this kind of behavior outside of Yale and affect their community negatively. And this itself HAS affected the Yale community negatively, because people ARE hurt. The same with the graffiti, the same with the slut sign. A community is made up of people, and hurting people in the community is hurting the community.

    I love how if people are hurt, but shut up about it, it's smart, but if they say something about it, it's "oversensitivity". How does the public expression of hurt make someone more sensitive? The fact that they talk or don't about it doesn't change the fact that they're hurt. And by sending out e-mails, the Yale administration is acknowledging the fact that people are hurt by these kinds of things. Is that being oversensitive, or irrational?

    People are tired of keeping quiet. They've done it for long enough.

    Angela O.

  • Anonymous

    @ #4 + 5 you may not feel threatened, but others do. Does your nonchalance
    make their sentiments towards the issue irrational? If someone insulted, offended or hurt you in public and people just ignored it, how would you feel? You say antisemitism doesn't exist at Yale, things like this happen. Yes, they're stupid and infantile, and you and I are above that, but some people aren't. If it's not addressed, those few who are racist, anti-semitic, and what have you, will take this kind of behavior outside of Yale and affect their community negatively. And this itself HAS affected the Yale community negatively, because people ARE hurt. The same with the graffiti, the same with the slut sign. A community is made up of people, and hurting people in the community is hurting the community.

    I love how if people are hurt, but shut up about it, it's smart, but if they say something about it, it's "oversensitivity". How does the public expression of hurt make someone more sensitive? The fact that they talk or don't about it doesn't change the fact that they're hurt. And by sending out e-mails, the Yale administration is acknowledging the fact that people are hurt by these kinds of things. Is that being oversensitive, or irrational?

    People are tired of keeping quiet. They've done it for long enough.

    Angela O.

  • Anonymous

    @ #4 + 5 you may not feel threatened, but others do. Does your nonchalance
    make their sentiments towards the issue irrational? If someone insulted, offended or hurt you in public and people just ignored it, how would you feel? You say antisemitism doesn't exist at Yale, things like this happen. Yes, they're stupid and infantile, and you and I are above that, but some people aren't. If it's not addressed, those few who are racist, anti-semitic, and what have you, will take this kind of behavior outside of Yale and affect their community negatively. And this itself HAS affected the Yale community negatively, because people ARE hurt. The same with the graffiti, the same with the slut sign. A community is made up of people, and hurting people in the community is hurting the community.

    I love how if people are hurt, but shut up about it, it's smart, but if they say something about it, it's "oversensitivity". How does the public expression of hurt make someone more sensitive? The fact that they talk or don't about it doesn't change the fact that they're hurt. And by sending out e-mails, the Yale administration is acknowledging the fact that people are hurt by these kinds of things. Is that being oversensitive, or irrational?

    People are tired of keeping quiet. They've done it for long enough.

    Angela O.

  • Anonymous

    As an alumnus who is Jewish, I agree that in this instance just rubing the snow off (or obliterating the swastika with more snow) would have been better than publicizing what was probably just a sophomoric stunt (albeit probably by a freshman, not a sophomore). I would feel differently if a more permanent medium had been used or if there were multiple snow swastikas.

    The jerk that did it was of course wrong to do it no matter what his or her reasons, but it has now been blown out of proportion.

  • Anonymous

    Had Dean Salovey or someone in the University administration been the first to see the snow Swastikas and been able to wipe them off without other students seeing and photographing them, I might be tempted to agree with you. But like it or not, before the YDN published articles or Dean Salovey emailed the community, individual students who were hurt, offended or scared by the images had seen them, talked about them, and sent emails with pictures of them. As a result, the community cannot just choose to ignore them. Yale is far from an anti-Semitic place, but that does not mean that this act was not threatening and hurtful to some students.. The University had a duty to respond because its students had already seen and heard about the images and some felt threatened. Like it or not, this logic applies to many decisions that the University makes and that is simply the way things operate. In a case like this, Yale has a duty to each and every one of its students - not just the majority that may not have felt threatened or believed that this merited a response.

  • Anonymous

    Of course Dean Salovey has good intentions. And as a Jew, he would probably be personally offended if he saw the swastika on his own. Just as I would be offended as a Jew. But as a member of the Yale community, neither he nor I would for a second interpret it as part of any larger campus trend. And certainly neither he nor I would think the appropriate response would be to publicize it for the whole Yale community through the front page of the YDN.

    In fact, the reason Dean Salovey emailed the student body about it was not because he believed it was an appropriate response, but, on the contrary, because he recognizes that it has become the expected and required response of the administration at this point. That's not to say that he doesn't believe what he's saying… but he's saying it because he's reacting to the uppity portrayal of the event in the YDN, not because he wants to be saying it. If no one had known about it to begin with, do you think Dean Salovey would have thought it would enhance campus culture to bring it all to our attention with a mass email, like Chief Perotti reporting crimes to enhance security?

    The fact is: Yale is one of the most Jew-friendly places on the planet. If you were to rank them, Yale would probably be among the top ten safest and most secure places on earth for Jews. Maybe Yale still hasn't escaped its homophobia or male chauvinism or racism, but it has definitely escaped its anti-Semitism.

    Anyone who genuinely believes that anti-Semitism at Yale is anything close to what it is anywhere in the rest of the world -- or much of the rest of the country -- must not have spent much time outside of a Northeastern university campus or suburbia. Or, more likely, someone trying to convince us that anti-Semitism is any kind of threat at Yale is likely just exploiting this example to try to bring credence to their assertion of a wide-spread culture of oppression and discrimination at Yale… an assertion that most people here would agree is not true.

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