Politics & Government

Anti-Semitic posters found at UNC library. It’s second racist incident on campus in 2 weeks.

The rise and fall of Silent Sam

Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.
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Silent Sam has stood on UNC-Chapel Hill's McCorkle Place for 105 years. On Monday August 20, 2018, it was brought down by protesters.

UNC Police are investigating the placement of anti-Semitic posters this week on bookshelves and tables in Davis Library on campus.

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz sent out a campus-wide statement Wednesday to say that library workers had found several of the posters, and to ask that anyone with information about them call 911.

“I am extremely disappointed and appalled that anyone would write the abhorrent messages and direct them toward members of our Jewish community,” Guskiewicz said in the statement. “This behavior conflicts with the University’s long-standing commitment to fostering an environment where all students, faculty and staff can be free from harassment.

“This is the second time in two weeks I have had to share information with you about the discovery of racist or hateful messages on our campus. While we believe the two incidents are unrelated, these actions do not reflect our values.”

According to UNC Hillel, there are about 1,300 Jewish students at UNC.

The university did not report what was on the posters. Ari Gauss, executive director of N.C. Hillel, the UNC-based foundation for Jewish college students across the state, said he had seen the posters. He condemned them in a statement on the Hillel’s website.

“We are outraged that vicious anti-Semitic flyers, referring to “an evil Jewish plot,” were placed at Davis Library at UNC Chapel Hill this week, the statement said. “We are disgusted by the vile and hateful rhetoric on these flyers. The language is reminiscent of centuries-old, anti-Semitic rhetoric that incited the murder of thousands of Jews in pogroms throughout Eastern Europe and the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. This racist, repulsive language has no place on any campus or in any society.”

Unrelated to the discovery of the flyers, Gauss said, the Hillel is hosting a speaker at UNC Thursday night, Dr. Marc Dollinger, a Jewish historian who will talk about the history and impact of anti-Semitism.

Gauss said that in his 10 years at the Hillel, he has heard of anti-Semitic graffiti and gestures at different campuses across the state, but never at UNC. He said Jewish students have been surprised by it.

“I think because this is such a progressive campus, and this feels archaic and backward,” he said.

In light of the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October in which 11 worshipers died, Gauss said it would be irresponsible not to take seriously the hatred represented by the flyers.

“History shows us that you can’t ignore people who hate Jews,” he said.

Guskiewicz reminded students, faculty and staff that they can get information about discrimination and harassment at https://safe.unc.edu/. To report harassment or discrimination, Guskiewicz told the campus, contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.

Just this week, police arrested two people for defacing UNC’s Unsung Founders Memorial and an outdoor art exhibit on campus with racist graffiti. Guskiewicz had sent out a campus email about that incident, which happened early on March 31.

Charged in the vandalism, along with the theft of a university flag, were Nancy Rushton McCorkle, 50, of Newberry, S.C., and Ryan Francis Barnett, 31, of Sanford. Barnett also was charged with public urination. Both have attended events on campus led by the Heirs to the Confederacy group protesting the removal from campus of Silent Sam, UNC’s Confederate monument.

Davis, one of five libraries at UNC, is the university’s central library. According to its website, most humanities, social science, business and foreign language materials are at Davis, along with maps, government information and data collections. Students and the public use its eight floors to work and study. The building is open until 2 a.m. most nights.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.
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