In response to the alleged racial harassment of a freshman Hawaiian student and drawings of swastikas in several residence halls, the University is holding a series of meetings in residence hall complexes.
Barnhart/Riley Complex Director Bue McNeely said the meetings are designed to let students discuss with administrators their concerns about the recent events.
“We’re finding as we talk to students that, as shocking as it might be to some of us, (racial harassment) happens,” Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of University Housing Mike Eyster said.
The first meeting was held on Oct. 20 in Carson Hall, where freshman Zane Lobetos lived prior to leaving the University in late September after receiving alleged racial harassment and death threats.
About 35 staff members and students attended a similar meeting in H.P. Barnhart Hall Thursday night.
At the meeting, Hawaii Club members distributed a petition condemning the alleged harassment of Lobetos. The petition is also being distributed in various University classes, and the Hawaii Club plans to send the list of signatures expressing support to Lobetos and his family.
Thursday’s meeting also addressed more recent incidents in Barnhart.
A couple of weeks ago, swastikas were found drawn on walls in hallways inside Barnhart, McNeely said.
University Housing Director of Resident Life Sandy Schoonover added that early last week, swastikas were also found in the Hamilton Complex carved into a table in the Common Grounds Cafe and drawn on a photo of a University Housing staff member.
Some students at the meeting said they wished they were more informed about racist events in the residence halls. Eyster said the University decides on a case-by-case basis whether to release details of incidents of harassment because discussing some incidents might reveal confidential information about a student.
E-mails have been sent to all students living in the residence halls describing the need to be respectful of other students, but these e-mails do not go into detail about specific incidents, Eyster said.
Schoonover said a poster describing resources such as the Bias Response Team for dealing with racist incidents will soon be posted in all residence halls and dining venues.
Oregon Hillel Executive Director Hal Applebaum, who also attended the meeting, said the swastikas in the residence halls are especially offensive because they invade the homes of students.
“My reaction when I first heard was not just for the Jewish students, but for all minority students and non-minority students, too,” Applebaum said, adding that today’s hate groups use swastikas to intimidate people of many minority groups.
“That’s not necessarily against Jewish students,” Applebaum said. “It’s against gosh knows who and gosh knows what.”