A swastika found on a bulletin board in a Harvard University building in Boston prompted school officials and community members to gather Friday to take a stand against anti-Semitism.
About 100 to 150 people filled a lecture hall at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where the Nazi symbol was found on Thursday, said Sam Harp, a university spokesman.
A student found the symbol, fashioned out of push pins, on the fifth floor of the Kresge building at 677 Huntington Ave. It was 2 or 3 inches in width, and was immediately removed, Harp said.
“The Harvard Chan School considers symbols of anti-Semitism and hatred anathema to our values and our public health mission, and we are appalled to have found such a symbol on our own campus,” Harp said in an e-mail.
Laura Rapoport, the president of Jewish Student Association at the public health school, said she was horrified by the incident.
“It was very disturbing that somebody felt they could express such a overtly anti-Semitic view and feel like it’s in a safe space,” Rapoport, 27, said in an interview Friday night.
She said she did not attend Friday’s session. She said she would like to see the school “spend more time educating students about Harvard’s history of eugenics and anti-Semitism.”
In a letter to the community, Michelle Williams, the public health school’s dean of faculty, said the incident is under investigation.
Williams emphasized that hateful expressions have “no place” within the school.
“We condemn any attempt to subvert the School’s bedrock commitment to inclusion and belonging and we affirm our dedication to fighting oppression and discrimination — whether subtle or overt — wherever they appear,” she wrote.
Anyone with relevant information is asked to contact senior associate dean for academic affairs Meredith Rosenthal at email@example.com.
This was the third report of a swastika showing up on a Massachusetts school campus this month.
The symbol was also found near the entrance of Needham High School on Tuesday, and 14 Arlington High School students were accused of spray-painting a swastika and antigay slurs on the school’s exterior on May 2.
Robert Trestan, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Boston, said the incidents share some things in common.
“One is the use of the swastika, and two is the opposition it’s been met with in every single community,” he said.
The best thing schools and community members can do is to act immediately, Trestan said.
“If there’s an incident of graffiti, or someone putting swastikas up, and no one else says anything, someone else could add to it, and it could grow,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a community where we’re suddenly numb to symbols of hatred.”Elise Takahama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.