Campus Free Speech

GWU Student Suspended, Investigated for Anti-Jewish Hate Crime. Wait, What?

Is school not the right place to learn about the swastika's origins?

|

Swastika
Dreamstime

In March, George Washington University suspended a Jewish student and charged him with breaking the law, disorderly conduct, and discrimination. Additionally, administrators forwarded his case to D.C. police as a possible "hate crime" investigation, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

What did this Jewish student do to get himself kicked out of classes and trigger an anti-Jewish hate crime kerfuffle? He tried to start a conversation about the swastika, which actually predates German Nazism and is a symbol of good luck in other cultures. He placed an Indian swastika on a campus bulletin board, and remained nearby to talk about the image with members of his residence hall.

While the student was briefly away, someone spotted the swastika and called the police. The student immediately explained what he was doing, but GWU administrators didn't care about the context.

The university has so far ignored FIRE's assertions that punishing this student is a breach of the free speech guarantees it makes in its code of conduct:

"GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany," said FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn. "It's ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place—that context is important and there's much to be learned about the history of the swastika."

Is school not the right place to learn about the swastika's origins?

NEXT: George Stephanopoulos and ABC News's double standard on former employers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “While the student was briefly away, someone spotted the swastika and called the police”

    Really? They called the fucking police? Over a symbol posted on a bulletin board? What the fuck are the police supposed to do about it– break the bulletin board’s spine?

    1. I laughed a little too hard at this.

    2. Trigger warning…..trigger warning! Somebody saw Haven Monahan spray paint that swastika and went “SQEEEEEEE”

    3. They’re supposed to shoot the bulletin board’s dog, and then charge the bulletin board with possession of marijuana.

      -jcr

    4. Hey, Community did it first, with Pictionary!

      “When will they remove Windmill from the game?”

    5. I guess to some people, the school administration is equipped to handle rape, but the possible presence of Nazis on campus could only be handled by the police.

      I could understand a student thinking, “Oh my, is that a swastika? Could there be neo-Nazis on campus? I should alert someone!” I disagree with the panic, but I understand. But why the police? I don’t know why you’d go to anyone higher than the RA.

      1. I don’t know…the sobbing, thumb sucking pile of whiny little pansies that this country has been pumping out lately is just deplorable. “Oh my god, I’ve been offended! Oh, my poor, poor sensibilities! I just can’t take one more assault on my personal beliefs!” Good lord. Seriously, toughen up people. You shouldn’t be calling anyone. Just mind your own goddamn business and ignore things you don’t like. Or, you know, actually DO something about it. Don’t go bawling to the “authorities” every time you see something you don’t like. It doesn’t matter why the kid put it up; if someone expresses themselves by posting something on a bulletin board you don’t like, then just fucking express YOURSELF right back by ripping it down! Holy shit, you call the pigs into a college? It’s all anyone can do to keep them the hell out half the time and some idiot calls them IN? Whoever called them, whoever calls cops for help with ANYTHING short of a dire emergency, deserves the world we live in now.

  2. You know who else prominently displayed a swastika?

    1. The A&E channel……..

    2. Mr. Hilter of Minehead?

      “Not much fun in Stalingrad.”

    3. Derek Vinyard?

    4. Edward Norton?

      1. 15 minutes late son!!!

        1. I didn’t know his character’s name so I didn’t even realize it.

          1. I’ll admit I had to use IMDB.

      2. No, he wrote “Swanee River”.

    5. Finnish Air Force in WW2?

      1. But the Finnish swastika was a charming baby blue! That hardly counts…

        1. They did switch to black ones after 43, at least on tanks.

          But baby blue is so better, which is why my Finnish T-26, T-28 and T-34 tanks sport both awesome later-war camo and a baby blue swastika.

          1. Wargamer or modeller?

            1. Wargamer, Flames of War mostly.

      1. I hate Illinois Nazis!

    6. Mr Hilter?

      1. Shit! Hours late…

    7. Mr Schickelgruber?

    8. George Washington?

  3. Higher “education” is done.

  4. Everyone I know who went to George Washington came out of it ruined–chill laidback stoner turned totalitarian progressive who actively posts on Facebook about how racist libertarians are and who works for the DNC, etc.–so I can’t say I’m particularly surprised.

    Also, if your first reaction to seeing something you find offensive on a bulletin board is calling the police, well…

    1. Also ruined financially, I’m sure. That school is danged expensive

  5. George Washington University is the place to learn new idea and a place where new idea can flow. Students can talk about idea and have open and intelligent discussions about idea which prepares them for a world where idea is pretty much useless.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the original swastika was the reverse of the Nazi swastika–the original had the two crossed “Z” shapes (one vertical, the other horizontal) as “Z”s, whereas the Nazi swastika has them as “S”s. For this reason, the Nazi swastika is often called the “reverse swastika” by symbolists. (I trust I make myself obscure.)

    The original swastika with the “Z”s was a Buddhist symbol, and did indeed symbolize good luck and enlightenment..

    1. Yeah, just look it up on Wikipedia.

    2. Except the Buddhists weren’t the only ones using it, & it was prevalent in both orient’ns around the world.

  7. You know who else- Oh, wait, someone already did that.

    There’s nothing more dangerous than a self-hating Jew.

    1. There’s nothing more dangerous than a self-hating Jew.

      There’s no such thing. /Bo

  8. Is school not the right place to learn about the swastika’s origins? No, it’s where you go to foster your fear and moral outrage at facts you don’t like. You go online to learn about the Swastika. There are some pretty informative sites out there that use it liberally.

    1. Stormfont! Your number one source for heavy gothic blackletter fonts.

        1. B? definition.

  9. While the student was briefly away, someone spotted the swastika and called the police.

    Wait, what? WHAT?!! What would you tell the police? There’s no law or statute in this country which declares a Swastika illegal. Nothing.

    So you dial 911… what does that conversation sound like?

    Operator: 911, what’s your emergency?

    Caller: There’s a picture of a Swastika on the bulletin board.

    Operator: Ok, are you currently safe?

    Caller: I’m not… I’m not sure… I don’t…

    Operator: It’s ok ma’am… i want you to stay on the phone, I’m sending a unit to your location now.

    1. “I’M NOT IN A SAFE SPACE!”

      1. Clearly, you’re supposed to call 911 when you need to order cookies or puppy videos.

    2. Oh Paul, they didn’t call “normal” police. They called campus police. They’ve been trained to handle “campus” emergency calls. You know, like this. Or someone desecrating a Koran. Or vague assertions of possible rape.

      1. I wondered about that but the post didn’t indicate that. I presume you’re right though.

        ?

    3. There’s no law that says a swastika is legal, either.

  10. Man. I really wanna take the student that called the cops here, and drag them in for jury duty at the Albuquerque Federal Building and United States Courthouse. Which is positively fucking full of swastikas. Because it was built before WWII.

    I have to admit, that despite knowing the history of the symbol, it was a bit unnerving at first to be in a room with that as a major decorative motif.

  11. NMSU’s Yearbook was called “Swastika” at least up through the 80s.

    http://www.e-yearbook.com/book…..g180/1.jpg

    ?
    ??
    ????
    ?????

    1. The 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army also used a swastika until 1939.

  12. “GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika ”

    How about, they may not forbid *any* uses of the swastika?

    Pretty pathetic when the “advocates” for free speech are implicitly endorsing censorship. But that is the sorry state of affairs these days.

    1. what about a giant burning swastika, would that be okay? what about a student carving a swastika into his or her forehead repeatedly with a pen knife during class – would it be an implicit advocacy of censorship to tell such a person to leave?

      1. Unless this was some weird circumstance, placing a burning symbol of any kind in an otherwise threatening manner, whether the symbol is a number, a letter, a literal symbol of fire, etc, you’d reasonably be asked to cease and desist.

        Same thing with carving any symbol into one’s forehead. I think self-mutilation is highly frowned about in a school environment, for good reason.

  13. “Is school not the right place to learn about the swastika’s origins?”

    School is the place to be educated into the proper opinions.

    1. Yup.

      BOSTON?Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. “Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here.” Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

  14. While the student was briefly away, someone spotted the swastika and called the police.

    We won the war against running with scissors, and this is where it got us.

    1. I can’t disagree with anything in this post.

    2. Won? How can you say such a stupid thing! They still sell scissors with pointed ends! Pure fucking eye gouging badness, and you say the war is won? The fight against running with scissors WILL. NEVER. BE. OVER.

  15. There’s no law or statute in this country which declares a Swastika illegal.

    “There’s the problem, right there. I’m as dedicated to freedom of expression as the next guy, but come on. Anybody who puts a swastika on display needs a good assraping in a federal pen. That’s out of bounds, man.”

    1. I’m as dedicated to freedom of expression as the next guy

      So… not at all?

  16. Everyone has got this all wrong; just wait for it to play out and you’ll see. The school administration is actually helping the student with his presentation by showing everyone exactly how a totalitarian regime would react to something that has been “forbidden”. The school is trying to illustrate a point about how free speech is violated when ideas, words or images are censored. Right? Any takers?

  17. At least we have the consolation of knowing that GWU is opposed to the display of totalitarian symbols generally and would come down equally hard on a student who posted a hammer and sickle, right? That *is* right, isn’t it?

  18. At least we have the consolation of knowing that GWU is opposed to the display of totalitarian symbols generally and would come down equally hard on a student who posted a hammer and sickle, right? That *is* right, isn’t it?

  19. Jews are the only group that can discriminate against others and have a special word for when people discriminate against them Anti-semitism.

    We can discriminate against anyone freely except jews.

    1. Had the Poster not had a swastika but had an image of a naked Obama Family looking like monkeys eating watermellon, the same Cops would say that no crime was committed.

      1. and yet, strangely, the young man arrested was himself a Jew. We have yet to hear reports of black students being charged with a hate crime for using the word ‘nigga’; quite the opposite in fact. Minorities *other* tgan Jews are allowed to coopt the symbols of their former oppression while this young Jew faces criminal charges for the same effort.

        Take your hysterical zog conspiracy theories elsewhere. You clearly have no clue what youre talking about

        1. Is it a conspiracy theory? Really?

        2. He’s kicking his own ass!

      2. “Naked Obama family looking like monkeys”

        Nobody wants to hear about your high school art project.

  20. Origins? Swastika’s so old, nobody knows its origin. My friend Charlie thought it came from something people saw in the sky prehistorically.

    It’s hard for pagans now. Gotta load up so much w disclaimers, it’s hardly worth it.

  21. TV is where kids should learn this. There was an episode of the Night Stalker about this.

  22. I hope the administration replaced it with a picture of Paddington Bear

  23. As i was looking at a map of New York State I noticed that to the northeast of Lake Placid there was a town called Swastika. I couldnt believe it at first but after investigating it with a library in that area I found out it was an old lumbering town now almost forgotten because the industry moved on. During WWII outsiders tried to get the town to change its name but because Swastika was named way before the war and people were proud of the name they refused. They had their own post office etc. You can find it on some maps but not all maps. Its just to the north of a town called Jay NY.

  24. Swastika NY still has a zip code 12985.

    1. I think it’s close to Hymietown.

  25. These ‘utes’ are so trained to be offended by anything that is not approved by the collective that they will not even try to understand history. They have been trained to be offended by anything. And in this case, a somewhat similar symbolical link to the Nazis. They justify ignorance with a mob rule mentality of emotional nonsense.

    This symbol (and closely related variants) have been around for thousands of years in many eastern cultures.

    Rather than be offended by what this student did by displaying this symbol, the idiot kids should be laughing at how the Nazis failed to co-opt a symbol and rewrite history. They should be saying ‘Wow, that was a shitty time. Thank goodness we didn’t allow that to take over the world and desecrate an ancient symbol of good will.’

    Instead, we have moron kids running around the country thinking that the only way to succeed is to be one of the loudest and most offended people in society. History no longer has meaning. The past gets rewritten by the new mob. The Catholic church did the same thing when they burned the library at Alexandria, the Nazis burned books, ISIS is destroying anthropological artifacts as we speak… and the list of cultural offenses toward the human race goes on and on.

    1. These little collectivist shits that call the cops for being offended by something they have never even researched only adds credence to my assertion that they wouldn’t survive a week in the wild without all of their collectivist buddies. You know. These are the people who sit around in their little groups and think they are so important. They mentally masturbate each other with comments of encouragement with no understanding of how this world got to where it is today. As long as they have that BS support group, they have all they need. And if you don’t help them, they might just try to take what is yours. Your freedom of speech, your freedom of association, to contract, to property and so forth.

      There are days when I wish the power grids would go down for a few months so we could allow these morons to go the way of the Dodo. Meanwhile, the rest of us that think for ourselves can take our chances at survival and true freedom from pure lunacy.

  26. There’s a manga called Blade of the Immortal. The main character (an immortal ronin from the Edo period) is named “Manji”, which is a Japanese term for the swastika. Manji actually wears clothing with the swastika symbol.

    The English version of this manga always comes with a disclaimer that insist “the swastika has honorable origin and there is no antisemitic meaning.”

    I always thought this was necessary, but truly, I can see that there would be a brain dead progressive who might believe a Japanese swordsman in ancient Japan is somehow a hateful agent for Nazi Germany.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.