Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Yale University Police Looking for Individuals Responsible for Antisemitic Vandalism

Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins wrote to the Yale community late Tuesday about the discovery of racist and antisemitic grafitti inside the Kline Biology Tower at 219 Prospect St. twice in recent weeks – once on September 20th and again on October 2nd. The Yale Police Department opened an investigation immediately after hearing about the first incident, Higgins said. But the specific nature of the vandalism was unclear as of Tuesday night, as were the perpetrators’ identities. 

University President Peter Salovey released a statement Tuesday night condemning the vandalism. “I am outraged by these despicable and cowardly acts of hate, and I am deeply saddened that the crew working on the site, members of our police department, and others within our community who have responded to these incidents had to see such vile messages,” Salovey wrote in the statement.

Kline Biology Tower, or KBT, has been closed for construction since an electrical fire broke out in the building in 2019. Police discovered hateful graffiti and vandalized construction materials inside KBT on September 20, Higgins wrote in his email. The next day, he added, facilities and construction teams “increased security measures” by “installing additional security cameras, and fortifying the perimeter fencing and access gates to the construction site.” 

The cameras captured images of five young adults as they broke into the site and spray-painted and vandalized the building’s interior. Higgins released images of the suspects and requested that anyone with information contact the Yale Police Department.

In his statement, Salovey reiterated his request that the Yale police and security departments increase patrolling on campus.  

Uri Cohen, executive director of the Joseph R. Slifka Center for Jewish Life wrote in an email to the News that he and other Slifka leaders were not informed of either graffiti incident until Tuesday’s email. 

Slifka leaders released a statement early Wednesday morning denouncing the vandalism and highlighting spaces they will host for students to be among the community in the coming days. 

“In this moment of rising violence against Jews and other minorities in America, even symbolic incidents like this one take on larger and darker meanings, particularly for our community’s many Jews of Color, who are affected in multiple, intersecting ways,” read the statement signed by Cohen, Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Jewish Chaplain Howard M. Holtzmann, Hillel Student Board Co-Presidents Ruthie Davis ’23 and Zevi Siegal ’23 and Kehillah Leaders Destiny Rose Murphy LAW ’22 and Darya Watnick ENV ’22.“Our first instinct and most powerful response is to come together; there is no substitute for the warmth and strength of community during moments of fear like this one.”

Several Jewish students told the News that they are unsurprised about the antsemitic messages, but remain frustrated at the University’s lack of response. 

“I think the University needs to just stand with their Jewish students,” Kezia Levy ’24 told the News. “[Jewish students] should never feel the need to hide that identity for their safety, because at the forefront, Yale is there to make sure every student feels like they can express themselves in whatever religion or political affiliation.”

Both University Spokesperson Karen Peart and Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson declined to provide immediate comment for this story. 

The News reached out to the directors of the four cultural centers for comment but did not receive responses by the time of publication. Kimberly Goff-Crews, secretary and vice president for University life and director of the Belonging at Yale initiatives, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to the News, Yale College Council directors Jordi Bertrán Ramírez ’24 and Joaquín Lara Midkiff ’23 decried the incident and called for academic flexibility in its wake.

“What to some may merely stand as isolated incidents of vandalism, to the marginalized communities at Yale and beyond, represent generations — hundreds and thousands of years worth — of organized, calculated hate,” Bertrán Ramírez and Lara Midkiff wrote. “The actions of October 2nd shed greater light on an already blatant truth: we have massive strides ahead of us before we can promise a culture of campus safety, care, and respect.”

Bertrán Ramírez and Lara Midkiff urged the administration to academically support students impacted by the incident with eased access to dean’s excuses and flexible absence policies.  

Students can contact the Yale Police Department at (203) 432-4400 with any additional information.