Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. AJC file photo
Photo: Fast Copy News Service
Photo: Fast Copy News Service

Two Georgia universities investigating swastikas on campus

Two Georgia universities are investigating who drew swastikas and other racially-charged messages this week on their campuses, adding to a growing list of similar incidents nationwide on college campuses in recent weeks.

The presidents of both schools — the University of Georgia and Georgia College & State University — have written messages to students, faculty and staff condemning the acts since swastikas are used as a symbol of anti-Semitism or of Nazism. It’s unclear if the acts on the campuses are connected. 

The incidents in Georgia took place as officials at Syracuse University in upstate New York investigate four similar cases, including a swastika, on that campus in a recent eight day stretch, angering many students who feel administrators reacted slowly and poorly communicated their response. Swastikas have also been drawn at Smith College and UMass Amherst.

At UGA, which has nearly 39,000 students, swastikas were drawn on message boards in Creswell and Russell halls, the Red & Black, the university’s student newspaper reported. University president Jere Morehead described the images as “appalling” in a message to the campus community.

“I am appalled by such offensive and outrageous displays of hate,” Morehead wrote. “Let me be clear: this type of behavior has no place on our campus. The University of Georgia is defined by our shared values. Respect for others, diversity of thought, a love of learning, and a drive to expand knowledge and make a positive difference — these values unite us as a campus community and inspire our academic endeavors.”

University of Georgia President Jere Morehead.

At Georgia College, located in Milledgeville, two students reported to campus officials earlier this week that a swastika drawn on the doors of their residence hall. In addition, an off-campus resident in Milledgeville reported that the words “white power” were written in dust on a vehicle near the campus. The incidents took place last Saturday and Sunday, Georgia College’s student newspaper, The Colonnade, reported.

The school’s president, Steve Dorman, said in a message Friday: “Let me add my voice in strongly condemning these despicable acts. They are not in keeping with our shared values of reason, respect, and responsibility. Our campus must be a place that is welcoming and inclusive for all. I call on all of us to create an environment that is safe and inviting for all members of our community.”

Georgia College has about 7,000 students.

Officials at both Georgia institutions are asking students to share any information with campus authorities that may help the investigation. They’re also offering counseling services.

Religious-based hate crimes is increasing on college campuses, according to a recent federal report. 

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report in October that found religious-based hate crime on college campuses has increased significantly nationwide over the last decade. Religious-based hate crimes reported to the U.S. Department of Education increased from 103 in 2009 to 189 in 2017, and crimes reported to the U.S. Department of Justice increased from 24 in 2009 to 59 in 2017, the GAO report found.

Most of the hate crimes were anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim. About 60% of the crimes were vandalism. There were 13 crimes in Georgia since 2009, an AJC review of the Department of Education’s database found.

The GAO recommended that the Justice Department update and share more information about its resources to help address religious-based hate crimes on college campuses. The department agreed with the recommendations.

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