Every once in awhile on university campuses, the unthinkable, even the unutterable, happens. A scrawled message shows up on a bathroom stall, a religious symbol is defaced – and administrators and faculty members are left to try to contain the fallout and forestall another explosion.
Pace University, in New York, has been plagued by a series of three racially charged incidents, beginning with the discovery of a library-owned copy of a Koran in a toilet on its main campus in Manhattan September 20. Just four days later, a car parked at Pace’s location in the suburb of Briarcliff, N.Y. was found strewn with litter, the word “nigger” written in the condensation on the windshield, and, on September 29, the same racial epithet and a swastika were found scribbled on a bathroom stall door at the Manhattan campus. No suspects have been identified, although campus officials are operating under the assumption that the perpetrators are insiders, students or employees with access to the buildings.
“This is a major concern for us. Our concern is that we are a very diverse community; we have been a very inclusive community, in terms of welcoming individuals from all faiths, all backgrounds, all religions and so forth,” said Pace’s president, David A. Caputo. “This seems to all of us to be an attack on that.” . . .
In September, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, reported 1,972 incidents of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2005 – up 29 percent from 2004. The proportion of the total reported incidents occurring at elementary and secondary schools and universities – the group does not categorize incidents under “higher education” – increased from 6 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2005, Afsheen Shamsi, community liaison coordinator for CAIR, said.