Gateway Apartments management on Monday night painted over a six-inch swastika that was found in a stairway near the sixth floor over the weekend.
Although it is not being reported as a hate crime because there were no victims involved, the Office of Religious Life, USC Hillel, the Dept. of Public Safety and Gateway management are working together to determine who is behind the drawing, according to officials involved.
“Without further evidence to indicate this was a hate crime, it is a minor vandalism with no evidence to follow up on,” said DPS Capt. David Carlisle. “We instructed Gateway to notify us if any further incidents of this nature occurs.”
Soni said the university is trying to find out what happened and is supporting students who were affected by it.
“Obviously it’s a very hateful and cowardly act, and I regret that our students were subjected to it. We take it extremely seriously,” said Varun Soni, dean of religious life. “It’s something that’s an isolated incident — it’s not [representative] of the Jewish life on our campus.”
When the Gateway maintenance team heard about it, they removed the gel layer, but the outline of the Swastika was still visible Monday evening.
Tyler Treadway, Gateway’s building manager, said a work order for the vandalism was put in Saturday afternoon.
Treadway said Monday that Gateway management had decided to paint over the outline because it could not remove it by other means.
Some Jewish students living in Gateway said they are not happy with what happened or with Gateway’s response.
“If someone wrote the F-word on a wall, they would paint over it immediately. I don’t understand why it took them two days to do something about this,” said Bess Benhamou, a sophomore majoring in international relations. “I, as most Jewish people would, feel personally assaulted by their lack of courtesy to erase such a symbol immediately.”
Treadway said Gateway and DPS are making sure everyone is working together to see if there are any more leads. According to Carlisle, no further information has been found.
Michael Jeser, executive director at USC Hillel, said he is thinking about putting together a program before school ends to allow open discussion about messages like this.
“We want to raise awareness about this, but we also want to do this through students and encourage them to take a position,” Jeser said.
Soni said vandalism has occurred only two or three times in the three years he’s been at USC, according to Soni. He said in all of these cases, the perpetrator has not been found.
“People who commit these types of hateful and cowardly acts are rarely caught,” Soni said. “They do it anonymously in the cover of night, quickly.”
Although some students are upset by Gateway’s lack of immediate action, Treadway said Gateway is following protocol.
“It’s just unfortunate that we have those kinds of people, but I’m happy with our response to it. It’s being taken care of through USC, through DPS,” Treadway said.
Soni said incidents like these are an opportunity for people to join together.
“Even if it happens once, that’s too many times. Our opportunity at a research university is to come together,” Soni said. “We are defined as how we come together, and we do really well as a university [in] supporting our Jewish students and combating religious prejudice and anti-Semitism.”