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Fifth swastika found on UND campus

Another swastika was found scrawled onto a UND building Monday, the fifth in the past four months. Monday's swastika, measuring about 8 by 10 inches, was drawn with a clear substance on a UND law school window near one of the school's entrances, ...

Another swastika was found scrawled onto a UND building Monday, the fifth in the past four months.

Monday's swastika, measuring about 8 by 10 inches, was drawn with a clear substance on a UND law school window near one of the school's entrances, according to a statement from UND President Charles Kupchella and Provost Greg Weisenstein.

The leaders described themselves as "saddened, disappointed and disgusted," by the report.

Because it was drawn with a clear substance and because it was further obscured by a paper taped to the inside of the door, "it is unknown who drew the image, or how long it was there before being discovered," the release stated.

Three other UND buildings have been marred with non-swastika graffiti targeting Jews, African Americans and homosexuals since February, leading to a total of eight cases of bigoted graffiti on campus. A Jewish UND student, Scott Lebovitz, also moved out of his West Hall dorm in April after he said he was subjected to months of anti-Semitic taunts by students and that UND housing officials were slow or unwilling to help.


The strong statement from Kupchella and Weisenstein follows several weeks during which UND administrators were criticized by regional Jewish organizations and, much more stingingly, by members of the campuses' Jewish Student's Organization,

Those groups argued administrators acted too slowly when Lebovitz told them he was being harassed, taking more than a month to fully investigate, and failed to comprehend soon enough the seriousness of the swastika symbol.

The Midwest Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas issued a statement Monday -- before news of the most recent swastika was released -- pledging to aid UND in an effort to improve its campus climate for Jews and other minorities.

Jenna Benn, assistant director of the Midwest chapter of the ADL, said Monday she's spoken with Kupchella by telephone several times and she believes he's now committed to improving the university's climate for minorities and its ability to respond swiftly to acts of racial hatred.

The two groups have offered to provide extensive training to UND Police, housing staff, administrators and students, Benn said.

"What we really think is the university needs a real overhaul," she said. "It's a multilevel approach. It's a commitment, but they have a serious problem and they're acknowledging it now. They're talking about not being equipped to handle what occurred on campus.

"We're concerned about the communication breakdown that occurred and the month lag time between when (Lebovitz's harassment) first happened and when the administration came out with a response."

Benn said her group is asking UND to launch a full investigation of how hate crimes or racial bias crimes are reported on campus and to improve lines of communication between the school's housing office and upper administrators. She also suggested UND take the lead in advocating a strengthening of North Dakota's hate crime legislation, which she said "needs a lot of work."


Benn also praised members of UND's Jewish Student Organization for documenting the incidents, standing up to administrators and contacting the ADL. She said Kupchella and other administrators should apologize to Lebovitz and other JSO members for their failure to act expeditiously.

That apology has not come yet, despite JSO members loudly demanding it.

In a recent letter to the ADL, Kupchella wrote he wished he'd called Lebovitz early in the investigation to offer his support. When he offered to do so later, Kupchella wrote, Lebovitz refused to meet with him without an attorney present.

Kupchella committed the university to combating anti-Semitic and other racist acts in his letter, but also lashed out against some JSO members and JSO faculty adviser Jack Weinstein, who he said came into a meeting with him unwilling to listen and wanting him to join in a rush to judgment.

Weinstein and JSO members responded to those statements last week, saying Kupchella was "blaming the victim."

An ADL reply to Kupchella's letter also arrived Monday, UND spokesman Peter Johnson said, but it was inadvertently left in a locked office, so would not be available until today.

Reach Marks at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to jmarks@gfherald.com .

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