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IN THE MAIL: 'Equivocal' response hurts students, UND

BISMARCK -- I was disgusted by a story in Bismarck Tribuneseveral weeks ago, which reported anti-Semitic discrimination at UND. A Jewish student moved out of his dormitory after being harassed with ethnic epithets and drawings of swastikas. Since...

BISMARCK -- I was disgusted by a story in Bismarck Tribuneseveral weeks ago, which reported anti-Semitic discrimination at UND. A Jewish student moved out of his dormitory after being harassed with ethnic epithets and drawings of swastikas. Since then, more swastikas have appeared on campus.

As a Jewish person, my visceral impulse was to take a drive to Grand Forks and rearrange some collegiate faces. As adults, however, we must not rearrange faces but attitudes. I write this piece as a plea to UND officials not to pay lip service, but to halt this unacceptable behavior.

University president Charles Kupchella remained equivocal when presented with a cell-phone image of one of the swastikas. Did he think the perpetrators were referencing the Indo-Persian symbol of good luck that the swastika was before being co-opted by the Nazis in 1935 as a signifier of hate? Why did he not stroll across campus to see for himself?

I am amazed at his level of cowardice and concern for self-preservation. Simply to call the incidents "mindless" and "abhorrent" does little.

I wonder, would you, Mr. President, have been among the collaborators in Vichy France? I challenge you to act by standing up for the minorities in your student populace and suspend or expel the students who have been orchestrating these hate crimes.

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Kupchella reimbursed the victim $458.60; no amount of blood money will ever silence justice. He is retiring, and if no action is taken, his legacy will amount to little more than a leader who did not lead; one who cravenly sat idle as racial and religious intolerance occurred on campus.

Most North Dakotans are enlightened enough not to be bigots. On April 27, I attended a Holocaust commemoration, hosted by the Bismarck Hebrew Congregation, to remember the victims of the systematic extermination by the Nazis of 6 million Jews and perhaps between 9 million and 10 million other dissidents of National Socialism.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the perhaps some 50 attendees were not Jewish. It is good to know that people on the prairie will never forget. It would be nice if our institutions of higher learning were just as intolerant of intolerance.

I applaud North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Bismarck Mayor John Warford, both of whom have issued proclamations for years commemorating Days of Remembrance for Holocaust victims. Hoeven's 2008 edict partially reads that "the citizens of North Dakota should always remember the tragic events of the Holocaust and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution and tyranny."

In dehumanizing others, we dehumanize ourselves. What will Herald readers do to curb and eradicate ethnic and racial discrimination?

Michael Brillman

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