I write you this morning with a deep sense of frustration and sorrow: last night, a tribute on the East Campus Bridge to the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre was defaced by a large, red swastika. That such a craven and cowardly act of vandalism – a desecration of a memorial to individuals who were killed because they were Jewish and practicing their faith – should happen anywhere is extremely distressing. That it should occur in such a visible, public location at Duke should be a matter of grave concern to us all.
To our Jewish students, faculty, staff and neighbors – and indeed every member of our university community – I pledge that Duke will do whatever we can to protect your safety. As an immediate response, we will continue to provide additional security at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and other locations on campus. In addition, we will be installing security cameras in the vicinity of the East Campus Bridge, which has unfortunately become a focus of attention for those who seek to promote hatred and intimidation.
This poison of hate is not confined to Duke. It is part of a national, even global, trend that has seen hate crimes in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, increase dramatically in the past year. And since this incident follows others on campus and in Durham, we have an urgent obligation to confront anti-Semitism and other forms of hate on campus and in Durham. For that reason, I will be convening a meeting of leaders from Duke, the local Jewish community and public officials to review this matter and advise us on the actions we can take to confront the scourge of anti-Semitism through education and activism.
Duke alone cannot solve this problem, of course. But I commit that Duke will lead, and that we will not waver in our support for those of many faiths, backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and creeds, especially in these deeply trying and troubling times.
Vincent E. Price