Swastika found carved in bathroom stall of Languages Building

Dorm and academic hall bathroom stalls are often graffitied with marker drawings or emblazoned with scratchy hearts. 

But Wednesday, a student found carved into saloon-style doors an emblem that launched a Bias Incident Response—a swastika. 

Resembling a carving done by a key in wood, the anti-Semitic symbol was just below the metal lock of a men’s bathroom stall on the second floor of the Languages Building. 

Sophomore Perry Wallack found the symbol when he was in the building for a 12:20 p.m. meeting, and he shared a photo of it in a GroupMe. 

"My initial reaction was 'That seems kinda dumb,'" he said. "But I thought it was some idiot that did it a few years ago."

Wallack said that he did not want to become apathetic to hate speech like the Nazi symbol, however. So he called his dean and alerted his friends in the group message.

"This shouldn't be a moment when I ignore something stupid and say 'Jews have it pretty good,'" the sophomore said.

Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life, wrote in an email that she has found the Duke community to be “remarkably inclusive, supportive and affirming of Jewish campus life” in her short time at Duke so far. 

“This hateful act is wholly inconsistent with our values,” she wrote. “Though perpetrators of these kinds of incidents seek to spread fear and divisiveness, we are resilient and will not be bullied by this cowardly act.”

Sophie Williams, director of marketing and strategic communications for student affairs, wrote in an email that student affairs has reached out to the students who reported the incident and is working with Jewish Life to support the students. 

“Jewish Life at Duke is here to support all students who are affected by this incident, and we remain unwavering in our commitment to a campus culture where all students are valued,” Gordon wrote. 

In May, anti-Semitic posters were found on the wall that runs around East Campus and on the Main Street sidewalk that runs beside it. Similar posters were found near Brightleaf Square as well, said Gavin Yamey, professor of the practice of global health and public policy. Yamey explained that the posters had “violent anti-Semitic” imagery.

So far this semester, two incidents have been reported that included public defacement of a group’s material. The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture’s sign had the word “n*****” penned onto it two days before classes started. 

Last month, Mi Gente—Duke’s official Latinx student organization—painted a mural for Latinx Heritage month that was painted over less than 24 hours later. The local graffiti artist who painted over it approached the group the next day and said he “felt bad” about it, according to the student group.

But Wallack said that he does not like comparing "bigotry to bigotry." However, there has been a rise of anti-Semitism and cited last year's Charlottesville march. The swastika was either an act of total stupidity or hatred, he said.

"Ignorance and anti-Semitism is real and it exists, and it's something people should be conscious of," Wallack said.

By 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night, the swastika appeared to have been scratched out. 

The bathroom stall door at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night.
The bathroom stall door at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night.

Bre Bradham

Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head. 

Twitter: @brebradham

Email: breanna.bradham@duke.edu


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