The Central Michigan University (CMU) is investigating an anti-Semitic Valentine’s Day card that was produced during its campus’ College Republicans meeting, and given to a pair of students by a member of that group.
The card states “my love 4 u burns like 6,000 jews” alongside a photo of Adolf Hitler, according to Central Michigan Life, a student newspaper. The card was in a bag that was given to the students on Wednesday by a member of the campus Republican group.
CMU President George Ross said he was “deeply disappointed” and that the university leaders had met on Thursday morning “to review the situation and determine next steps.”
“Such hurtful, offensive language, while protected by the First Amendment, is unacceptable and is not consistent with our values and standards,” he said in a statement.
“We caution against concluding that the action is representative of the entire student organisation or its members and remind all that threatening others as a result of such an incident can have legal consequences,” he added. “We once again urge each of our students, faculty and staff to be beacons of peace, respect, inclusivity, and civility — to be role models of integrity, dignity and leadership.”
According to the university’s website, Central Michigan University is among the top 100 largest public universities in the U.S. with more than 20,000 students on its Mount Pleasant campus and another 7,000 enrolled online and at more than 40 locations across North America.
Its most recent survey on diversity found that “61 percent of students of colour at CMU have heard negative comments about a racial or ethnic group from other students on campus”.
In a statement, the College Republicans at CMU said they did not distribute the valentine in question and that they do not condone such anti-Semitism.
“While still not appropriate, I want to clear up that they did not create it themselves,” said Mackenzie Flynn, the student organisation’s president said.
She also told Central Michigan Life that the bags were meant for members only. A member had allegedly printed the offensive Valentine’s Day card and placed it inside a bag.
Then, a male member who “doesn’t like candy” and did not know the card was inside his bag, handed the bag to seniors Hannah Homrich and Madison Rodriguez Eberth, in a gesture said “to be nice.”
Eberth then posted a photo of the card to her social media accounts, which went viral on campus and was met with shock and outrage by the university’s community and social media.
“It blew up pretty quickly on campus,” said Olivia Cyman, the director of strategic operations for Central Michigan Action, to The Morning Sun.
Central Michigan Action is a student activism group, which advocates for student representation in the university’s administration and has a five-year plan to bridge the gap between students in campus and the local community in Michigan.
— Connor Hansen (@Connor_R_Hansen) February 9, 2017
Partly in response to this incident, students at the Michigan university came together in a rally to protest against hate speech on Thursday.
“After everything went down, there were marginalised groups on campus who felt attacked and we just came out to show them support and help empower all the students that are here,” said Cyman.
The CMU chapter of Jewish organization Hillel was also present at the anti-hate speech rally.
Cindy Hughey, the executive director of the Hillel Jewish Student Center at CMU, said the Jewish community on campus is “deeply concerned and disappointed that students would use anti-Semitic rhetoric and references to the Holocaust in a joking manner.”
“We find these references … trivialize an incredibly dark period in history when more than 6 million Jews perished,” Hughey said in a statement.
She also said that the organisation appreciates the strong response by CMU’s president and is working with campus administrators in the investigation on the incident.
During the protest, students carried signs which said “Don’t Normalize Hate”, among others and listened to speeches by campus group leaders.
Chad Morris, a student who was at the protest said to The Morning Sun that he saw the Facebook post about the card and that some of his friend were affected by it.
“It was meant as a joke but things like that aren’t funny,” Morris said. “That’s not a joke because you’re personally targeting somebody’s history, the history of an evil regime.”
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