Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Symbols, swastikas, and student sensibilities

By Joseph Berger
A Hindu sign of auspiciousness, left, and the Nazi swastika, symbols that caused confusion at George Washington University.
Last semester, a Jewish student at the George Washington University placed a small bronze swastika on the bulletin board at his historically Jewish fraternity. He was suspended and the case referred to the police as a possible hate crime. While there have been numerous instances of swastikas drawn as anti-Semitic intimidation, in this case the object was not the Nazi emblem but a variant, a Hindu and Buddhist sign of auspiciousness. In May, the student was allowed to return to school but on disciplinary probation. Symbols — their meaning, history and power to hurt — have been a volatile topic across the country this summer, and college campuses have not escaped the storm. [link]