April 21, 2023 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden
On March 19, Tasha Finkelstein ‘25 was headed to the Interfaith House of Colorado College, a place she frequents for social gatherings and community, to pick up some matzah-ball soup her friend made her. On her walk, she came across a swastika prominently painted on an electrical box behind the building.
Finkelstein alerted Kobi Chumash, the Coordinator of Jewish life and Hebrew Professor on campus about the hate symbol. Chumash then brought it to the attention of Campus Safety and Chaplain Kate Holbrook. By March 20, the symbol was no longer visible. Initially individuals believed it was removed by Campus Safety, but because the electrical box in question is located just off CC property and technically on city property, it was, in fact, the city of Colorado Springs who removed it from sight.
Despite the fast removal, some members of the Jewish community on campus were shaken that the incident happened so close to what otherwise is a safe space for them on campus. Moreover, they are disheartened that the school has not formally addressed the incident, nor released any information about what policies they have for mediating hate speech and images at CC more generally.
Chumash spoke about how he was happy it was removed so quickly, but that he thought the school missed an opportunity to talk more concretely about hate symbols at CC.
“The problem is that there was no real acknowledgement to the larger community,” said Chumash. “Just by erasing it or by taking care of it, it doesn’t really mean that it’s not going to come back. And people need to be aware, and people need to know, and people need to learn from it. So I think we missed an opportunity to educate our community about hate symbols.”
From speaking with individuals from the Title IX Office and the Butler Center, at present it appears there are no plans for this sort of community conversation and education to take place. Because the actual symbol was painted just off campus property there is no on campus investigation underway.
Josh Isringhausen is the Assistant Director of Title IX and currently the only person working within the Title IX office on campus. The former Director Tashana Taylor is no longer employed with the college, and the school is currently searching for her replacement. However, her absence means that fully addressing this situation has not fully happened by anti-harassment offices on campus.
In conversation with Isringhausen, he noted that there was no means for the school to necessarily investigate the situation. Since it was not on campus property it’s up to the city of Colorado Springs to hold those who painted it responsible. However, when it came to the question of education and CC specific response he said, “That conversation about [using this as an opportunity to talk about hate speech on campus] would’ve been above me at that time.”
A leadership representative from the Butler Center did not wish to comment. Instead, they redirected to the Title IX office as being the one in charge of this type of harassment at CC. However, for some members of the Jewish community on campus, it doesn’t much matter where the work is happening and who is handling it, just that it is still being considered and thought about.
Finkelstein said what she wants to see from campus is “just acknowledgement and recognition about the fact that this is not okay. That kind of hate is not okay…So many people don’t know that this happened, and so many Jewish students don’t know that this happened, which is kind of scary.”
As of right now there has been no escalation of antisemitism against members of the CC community. Though talking about this incident and calling it out is important to Finkelstein moving forward.
Chumash echoed this sentiment, “We know that there is hate around ourselves, there is hate around the world and it could happen to anyone, so let’s learn from it.”[II(1] For now the office of Title IX and the Butler Center have both extended the invitation for impacted students to reach out if they need individual support. Beyond that, some of the students who saw the hate symbol and spoke up about it have found support and community in one another.