Nicole Parsons, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, put a sign in her dorm room window that read: “FUCK NAZIS YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.” Parsons felt frustrated with the university’s lack of response to a string of hate crimes on campus, which motivated the sign.
Anything specific? Sadly, yes. For example, someone allegedly drew a swastika over a “Happy Hanukkah” sign that a Resident Assistant had hung on their door early in December.
“I thought maybe if I hang the sign up, maybe the person who drew the swastika will see it and see someone condemning their actions, even if the administration doesn’t do it,” Parsons told Buzzfeed News, regarding her “Fuck Nazis” sign.
People also found a string of white supremacist flyers and stickers on campus this past semester. These came courtesy of Identity Evropa, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a “hate group” back in 2016. The slogan as read on their flyers? “European roots American greatness.”
What is perhaps even more surprising than the hate crime is how Eddie Papazoni, a Resident Director at the university, responded to Parsons’ sign via email. (For clarification, in higher education, a Resident Assistant is generally a student who works in residence life part-time, whereas a Resident Director is often a senior, supervisory role).
The email to Parsons regarding her window sign read:
“While Residence Education cannot force you or your roommate to take the sign down, I am asking that you or your roommate take the sign down so that all students can be a part of an inclusive residential experience, as well as having a respectful environment to be a part of here on our campus.”
The university has since posted a statement to Facebook, reading in part:
“A poorly worded email from Residence Life staff asking students to take down the sign does not reflect the values of the campus, and it should not have been sent. The university respects the students’ right to display the sign and it may remain up.”
Most importantly, the statement clarified that the university does, in fact, “reject Nazis.” So why send the email? Apparently, the university is “sensitive to the use of profanity” in the student’s sign.
Hate crimes have been on the rise on college campuses, according to recent FBI data. Data collected from the U.S. Department of Education, back in 2016, shows a 25 percent increase in college hate crimes compared to the year before. Specifically, hate crimes reported to the FBI have seen the biggest increase against Jews, African Americans, and multiracial people.
Even more recently, colleges have reported a surge in anti-Semitism on campuses after the horrendous Pittsburgh synagogue massacre just a few months ago. Clearly, the problem of hate crimes on campuses goes far beyond just UMass Amherst.
Parsons is actually moving off campus (which she planned to do even before this incident), and the sign has been removed. Parsons explains to Buzzfeed that she took the sign down because her roommate was worried about how much attention the sign could bring to their room.
“I’m definitely going to hang it in my bedroom,” Parsons told Buzzfeed. “I’m going to keep the sign forever.”
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.