Two student residences at Stanford University, including the Sigma Alpha Epislon (SAE) fraternity house, were vandalized with swastikas and "anarchy symbols" early Sunday morning, the university said.
Several SAE members discovered the graffiti -- spray-painted in gold on some doors and external structures, one student said -- upon their return to the building at 1047 Campus Drive, the Stanford Daily reported. The chapter's president told the student publication that the fraternity has "no reason to believe that this was targeted toward any particular student in SAE."
The anti-Semitic graffiti was also found on and around Casa Italiana, an Italian language- and culture- focused house. The university initially said it was also found on BOB, a self-operated undergraduate residence, but Department of Public Safety Public Information Office Bill Larson said BOB was not vandalized.
There was much more graffiti at SAE than at Casa Italiana, Larson said. Both residences are on Stanford's fraternity "Row."
Stanford President John Hennessy said he was deeply troubled by the vandalism, which the university is investigating as a hate crime.
"This level of incivility has no place at Stanford," Hennessy said in a press release. "I ask everyone in the university community to stand together against intolerance and hate, and to affirm our commitment to a campus community where discourse is civil, where we value differences, and where every individual is respected."
University police is investigating the vandalism, and Stanford will also launch a separate investigation under its Acts of Intolerance Protocol, which "addresses conduct that adversely and unfairly targets an individual or group on the basis gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age or social or economic class," the university said. "Such incidents elevate to hate crimes under California law when they include threats, assault or vandalism directed at an individual or group."
At an impromptu student gathering at the Hillel House Sunday afternoon, Rabbi Serena Eisenberg condemned the anti-Semitic acts.
"The display of this loaded symbol of the Holocaust cast a shadow over our university community," she said in the release. "We appreciate the university's investigation of this incident in the wake of recent campus discord. Hate crimes have no place on a college campus or anywhere."
The vandalism follows intense campus debate this year over Stanford's endowment holdings of certain companies that do business in Israel, with the undergraduate student government urging divestment from corporations identified as complicit in human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine. While the undergraduate student government passed a resolution in support of divestment, the university's board of trustees rejected it, saying in a press release that "the university's mission and its responsibility to support and encourage diverse opinions would be compromised by endorsing an institutional position on either side of an issue as complex as the Israel-Palestine conflict."
Noam Rosenthal, a senior who just finished his term as president of the Jewish Student Association, said while unrepresentative of the wider student body or climate at Stanford, the vandalism makes it even more critical to have open conversations on campus about anti-Semitism.
"This is a very tolerant university," Rosenthal said. "That being said, I do believe that the issue of anti-Semitism is one that has been somewhat shoved under the rug this year on this campus, and we should use this event and this unfortunate act of intolerance to revisit the issue of anti-Semitism on college campuses."
The Jewish Student Association is organizing a rally in response, to be held in White Plaza on Tuesday, April 28, at 9 p.m., Rosenthal said.