CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign leaders are investigating two recent incidents of anti-Semitism.
A swastika was found in the Foreign Languages Building on Monday, according to a campus email sent Wednesday by Chancellor Robert Jones. Additionally, some reported that a recent presentation at a staff development program contained anti-Semitic content. Jones said campus officials are talking to people who attended that meeting to better understand what happened.
It is not clear what the offensive content entailed.
Chantelle Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said the incident occurred at a weekly staff meeting for students who serve as resident advisers and multicultural advocates.
The training involved is part of the campus' Multicultural Advocates program, whose members are part of the residential life team and seek "to create communities of allies in the residence halls by planning programs and learning events that deal primarily with diversity, multiculturalism and social justice issues," Thompson said.
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Jones said in his campus note that the meeting involved 11 student employees and a full-time staff member.
"Concerns were raised that the presentation inaccurately linked some identities or viewpoints with violence and terrorism," Thompson said in an email.
"This exercise was part of a university program created to help students learn to share diverse ideas and perspectives that lead to new understanding. Instead of fostering dialogue, it incited division, distrust and anger," Jones wrote. "The program allowed our students to enter an extremely challenging and potentially volatile situation without the preparation, training, education and professional oversight they needed to succeed. This is inexcusable and unacceptable. This is a failure to our students, and that is my responsibility."
Asked if anyone involved was facing discipline, Thompson said: "None of the students involved are to blame for the outcome.
We expect training and oversight processes for our all of our staff programs to prepare our employees to lead conversations on challenging topics. This is not what happened in this instance," Thompson said.
University officials are responding sternly.
The student affairs office is reviewing the hiring, training, professional oversight and management processes of U. of I. resident advisers and multicultural advocates. All housing staff, RAs and advocates will be required to undergo anti-Semitism training, Jones said.
"I want to state publicly and unequivocally that acts and expressions of anti-Semitism are acts and expressions of hatred and discrimination that are in direct opposition to our core values," Jones said. "Bias and prejudice are antithetical to the educational foundations of our university and hurtful to our entire community. The idea that any individual feels threatened for expression of personal religious or ethnic identity is unacceptable. We will always recognize the rights of those on the campus to safely and freely express their perspectives and opinions. But we will also be ready to condemn statements and actions that violate our shared values and seek to demean, intimidate or devalue others in our community."
Shortly after the fall term began, a 19-year-old U. of I. sophomore was charged with a hate crime, accused a leaving a noose inside a dorm elevator.
Other racist incidents have inflamed the downstate campus in recent years.
Early this year, black employees in the U. of I. system filed a lawsuit saying they were "exposed to threats of racial violence, such as nooses, swastikas, KKK garb, racist graffiti and confederate flags." The lawsuit also alleged that university staff members used racial slurs and other racially charged language against black workers.
In 2016, someone drew three large swastikas at three campus buildings the same year a university employee was fired for tossing a noose down on a table in front of a black employee.