Several small swastikas were found carved into a table at the Book and Plow Farm, Chief of Police John Carter announced in a community-wide email on Oct. 10. Since the discovery, the college has condemned the act and the Amherst College Police Department (ACPD) has moved the table to police storage. The college does not have information about who drew the swastikas.
The college has faced several instances of anti-semitism, racism and other forms of severe bias in the recent past. In Dec. 2018, members of the men’s lacrosse team drew a swastika on the face of an unconscious student at a party, The Student reported. Last semester, in March of 2019, members of the Men’s lacrosse team repeatedly said the N-word outside a black teammate’s suite, and an altercation ensued. In 2012, a student from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) broke into the Keefe Health Center and painted two swastikas — he was later arrested after a brief foot chase by ACPD.
“ACPD takes all reports of bias extremely seriously and responds promptly as part of the work we do to support building and maintaining community at Amherst College,” Carter wrote in the email.
In a follow-up, campus-wide email on Oct. 11, President Biddy Martin wrote, “In a context of extreme division in this country, when expressions of hatred have been given license at the highest levels, and violence has been on the rise, the decision to etch this symbol into the wood of a table at the farm is chilling. It is unconscionable and unforgivable.”
“The Book and Plow Farm is a site of beauty, calm and solace for our students, as well as for many staff and faculty, thanks to the farm staff who have devoted themselves to creating and maintaining this wonderful place. This fall, in particular, it has served as a favored destination. Someone has desecrated a part of it on a weekend when Jewish students, staff and faculty are celebrating Sukkot, a joyous festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest.”
Any information about the incident should be reported confidentially to ACPD or the Office of Student Affairs, Carter wrote in the email. “I implore anyone who has information about who is responsible for the swastikas to come forward. We have no information at the moment about who it was or could have been,” Martin said.
The swastika has widely been regarded as a symbol of hate after it was adopted by the German Nazi Party in 1920. The Nazis systematically murdered more than six million Jews during World War II.
Amherst College’s Hillel, the Jewish affinity group on campus, has responded to the event in an op-ed in The Student.
Zach is a managing news editor for The Student. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri and plans to major in biology before attending medical school. When not in the newsroom, Zach may be drinking iced coffee in Val, applying for internships under the name "Zachary" or eating his favorite foods, popcorn, chicken flavored rice and bananas.