A stucco wall adjacent to the Student Success Center became a symbol of hate late last month when a swastika was scrawled across it. The marking was first discovered around 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 25 by a faculty member and was reported to Campus Safety and the Costa Mesa Police Department. There were no security cameras in the vicinity of the crime, and there are no suspects or leads for this case, said Chief of Campus Safety Jim Rudy.
The incident was also reported to the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center.
“The campus, from the president on down, does not condone this type of vandalism with any type of racial overtones,” Rudy said.
According to Rudy, when incidents happen on campus they try and remove it as quickly as possible.
“It does happen but we want to limit people’s exposure due to the sensitive nature of the content,” Rudy said.
The faculty member who discovered the symbol on campus said she was dismayed.
“The first emotion was shock and disbelief which quickly turned into very angry and then how to handle the situation,” she said.
According to the faculty member, she and a colleague first called their dean and was directed to follow up with Campus Safety or Maintenance and Operations.
“Once Campus Safety got here they took it much more seriously than I initially thought they would and I was proud of this institution,” she said.
Another faculty member happened to be passing by at the time that officers were present. She said that officers were very quick to respond and were checking the area periodically for suspects.
“I’m disappointed that there are still people who would do that,” she said.
Although Rudy could not confirm whether this incident was affiliated with any organized neo-Nazi organization, fascism advocacy groups have become more prevalent in recent years, said, Lisa Armony, the leader of a Jewish group.
One known hate group that is active in Costa Mesa and nationwide is the Patriot Front, a white nationalist group that regularly covers college campuses with stickers and flyers with propaganda that includes messaging such as “the border — conquered, not stolen,” and incorporates the use of swastikas, Rudy said.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, told the Orange County Register last summer that there was a flashpoint for much of this activity.
“White supremacists began to hit college campuses with propaganda after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in July 2017,” Levin told the newspaper.
Some campus officials said that while some might view the act as merely a juvenile prank, for Jewish people on campus the symbol is a painful reminder of the Holocaust.
According to Armony, director of the Rose Project of the Jewish Federation and Family Services, Jews were among the most frequent victims of hate crimes in Orange County in 2018.
“We are living in a time of increasingly visible public bigotry and violence in which acts of hate are on the rise locally here in Orange County, nationally and globally,” Armony said.
Hate groups have targeted college campuses and scheduled hate rallies in nearby places like Long Beach, where last April a bomb plot was hatched to coincide with a white nationalist rally but was stopped by the FBI.
Rudy said he encourages students and faculty to report similar incidents to Campus Safety and the Costa Mesa Police Department; Campus Safety can be reached at 714-432-5017.