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Anti-Semitic Vandalism Found on Drake Campus, School Reacts to Act

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Drake University is trying to calm fears after anti-Semitic vandalism was found on campus.

The slur was discovered by a Jewish student on Wednesday, carved into a chair in Meredith Hall.

“Any slur is a means of dehumanizing people….this very much shocked me,” said Tali Eisenstadt.

Eisenstadt is the president of Drake Hillel, the campus' Jewish community. She says acts like these take on greater significance when compared to other anti-Semitic acts carried out recently. Earlier in the week, a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis was vandalized.

“Regardless of whether it was a big act or a small act it was still an act, and it still showed that there was someone on campus that decided to take the time to carve something into a seat so that other students can see it and instill that fear and that hate that no one should have to feel,” said Eisenstadt.

School administration was quick to condemn the act.

“It's important for us as an administration to speak boldly and clearly that acts like these are simply unacceptable, they are contrary to who we are here at Drake,” said Tony Tyler, Director of Student Equity and Inclusion .

The school’s provost, Dr. Sue Mattison, sent an email to students across campus, which says, in part, “Let me be clear that we will not tolerate acts of oppression and hate, and will do everything in our power to deal with this."

As word got out about the slur, people were invited to gather at the Hillel House. At one point the house was so crowded nobody else could get in the door.

“It was a very powerful night. I was very moved that people felt safe enough to express themselves, express their opinions, their thoughts, their feelings, their concerns,” said Eisenstadt.

The large gathering of students and staff, Jews and non-Jews alike, also discussed how to move forward from the incident; they settled on education.

“A lot of students talked about how they are currently teaching their friends, who never met a Jew. Those little interactions where you teach someone something about Shabbat, or a new Jewish holiday, shows that 'hey, we're different in some ways, we're similar in a lot of ways, understand us, and we're going to have this great relationship,'” said Eisenstadt.

Drake says it is investigating this act as a hate crime and has not yet found the person responsible.