'It's very scary': Jewish and Muslim students at this large state university say they don't always feel safe


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  7 months ago  •  10 comments

By:   Julia Ainsley, Didi Martinez and Fiona Glisson

'It's very scary': Jewish and Muslim students at this large state university say they don't always feel safe
As the U.S. grapples with a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, Jewish and Muslim students at the University of Connecticut say they don't always feel safe.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

As the country grapples with a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, federal agencies and university administrators are struggling to walk a fine line between providing security on college campuses and protecting free speech.

In many cases, schools have been reluctant to intervene to stop speech that could be perceived as threatening to one group but an expression of free speech to another.

Even inside the Biden administration, representatives from the White House and the Homeland Security, Justice and Education departments have had lengthy debates about how to strike the right balance, two administration officials tell NBC News. The Department of Education recently issued guidance to schools, reminding them of their legal obligation to address discrimination. On Thursday, the department opened investigations into four elite universities for incidences of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

At the main campus of the University of Connecticut in rural Storrs, students from the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Hillel center for Jewish students all said they have received calls from parents who are worried about their safety.

At Hillel, posters of kidnapped Israelis mysteriously disappeared overnight. Then, the Jewish students say, they saw posters on campus calling for the freedom of Palestine by any means necessary. And their Instagram post advertising a talk by a survivor of the Re'im music festival massacre received angry and antisemitic comments.

"I think that anything that has to do with violence, for me personally, affects me a lot. It's very scary because I feel like words can become actions very quickly, as we've seen on other college campuses," said Yana Tartakovskiy, a junior at UConn who says she now hides her Star of David necklace so she is not identified as Jewish on campus.

University of Connecticut junior Yana Tartakovskiy, who is Jewish, says she has begun to hide her Star of David necklace.NBC News

Muslim students are also worried about being identified. Muslim Student Association President Muneeb Syed said many women wearing hijabs now wear hoodies if they are walking by themselves across campus. Recently, he said, a Muslim woman was leaving a pro-Palestinian rally on campus when she was harassed by a car of men who pulled over to yell at her.

A female friend of his who wears a hijab on campus, but who was not comfortable sharing her identity, told NBC News, "My parents are definitely worried. They call me, they're like, 'Are you sure you're safe?' You know, they want to make sure that I go to my dorm at a certain time, just so that I don't go out and have any risks or potential risks outside."

For recent graduate Lena Maarouf, the threat came seemingly out of nowhere. She received a voicemail from an Oklahoma number one morning. She believes it is because her number is still listed on the website for UConn's Students for Justice in Palestine organization.

In the message, which was played for NBC News, a man with a Southern accent said, "Yeah, I belong to the students for the death of all Hamas. You're supporting baby killers, people who rape grandmas. You're just another sand n***** terrorist, that's all you are. So you guys get together so the Mossad can get pictures of you because I can't wait to see you dead."

Lena Maarouf, who recently graduated from the University of Connecticut and was part of the Students for Justice in Palestine group on campus, has received threatening voicemails.NBC News

Maarouf said she was filled with a deep sense of dread after she heard it.

"It makes you wonder, like, what else are they capable of doing if they're going out of their way to get your number? And what kind of connections can they have to maybe someone on campus?" Maarouf said.

While both Muslim and Jewish students agreed they don't feel safe, they were divided on whether there should be a larger security footprint on campus.

At Hillel, Jewish students are recruiting, hiring and training students who can provide extra security for the building. They've received government funding and are working with the local police and fire station to train student security guards on best practices.

DHS offers universities as well as K-12 schools free security assessments through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The executive director of CISA, Brandon Wales, told NBC News the agency's physical security advisers can help schools in a variety of ways depending on their needs.

"It could be where you have an ingress and egress into a facility. Is it structured right to not allow adversaries into a facility but also to allow students to escape when necessary?" Wales said. "It can be looking at physical security lighting in critical areas that may be important that would allow a perpetrator to hide and attack students."

But Maarouf and other members of Students for Justice in Palestine said they wouldn't trust DHS to protect them, given the history of Muslim Americans feeling profiled and targeted by DHS.

Students at the University of Connecticut have called on the university to do more to address hate incidents on campus. Administrators say the school unequivocally condemns Islamophobia just as it condemns antisemitism.NBC News

"You have to look at their track record: How have they treated Muslims in the past? Are they really going to believe us? Are they going to listen to our true concerns?" Maarouf said.

Administrators at UConn say they are investigating the voicemail Maarouf received, as well as a threatening email Muslim students received on another UConn campus. "UConn unequivocally condemns Islamophobia, just as it condemns antisemitism and all forms of hatred."

But Jewish and Muslim students who spoke to NBC News said they wanted the school to do more to acknowledge the incidents across campus and to engage students in an informed discussion of the conflict and history in the Middle East.

"We really want the university to, first, actually acknowledge that these events are happening in the first place to the greater UConn community," said Syed. "It's not until that happens that we think the university and the students will take accountability for actions and really start working on creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusion."


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1  Buzz of the Orient    7 months ago

How different it was when 9/11 happened.  On north Bayview Avenue in the Greater Toronto area a Jewish Temple and a Mosque are side by side and share a parking lot.  The congregants of those two houses of prayer now and then would invite each other to their services, and share events.  As soon as the news of the WTC disaster happened the strong grown up youths of the Temple phoned each other and told them to come to the Mosque with whatever they could use as a weapon like a baseball bat or a crowbar.  Did they come to harm the mosque or any of its congregants?  NO.  They formed a ring around the Mosque to prevent anyone from coming to vandalize or cause harm to the mosque and its occupants, and they left only when the police came to take their place.  I don't think we see much of that kind of thing happening these days, especially on university campuses. 

Professor Quiet
1.1  cjcold  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    7 months ago

I remember being gassed by the cops back in the 60s protesting Nam on campus. I remember Kent State where students died.

Seems students these days are kind of light weight.

Professor Quiet
1.1.1  cjcold  replied to  cjcold @1.1    7 months ago

Maybe it would be a good idea to stay in the dorm and study for those who don't feel safe. Stop wearing a scarf even. 

Nine times out of ten, folk bring trouble onto themselves.

Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
1.1.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @1.1    7 months ago
Seems students these days are kind of light weight.

Exactly, way light weight.  You had to walk for miles, in deep snow, to get to the Nam demonstrations.

Right Down the Center
Senior Guide
1.1.3  Right Down the Center  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @1.1.2    7 months ago
You had to walk for miles, in deep snow, to get to the Nam demonstrations.

Uphill both to and from the demonstrations.

Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2  Vic Eldred    7 months ago

As the country grapples with a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents,

I want to see the numbers on each.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2    7 months ago

Incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia surge in month since …

Web The anti-extremism advocacy group Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, released updated data Monday citing 832  antisemitic incidents  between  Oct 7  and Nov.  7 , an  increase  …

Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    7 months ago

You should have posted what I asked for:

The anti-extremism advocacy group Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, released updated data Monday  citing 832  antisemitic   incidents between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7 , an increase of 316% compared to last year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that during the same period it  recorded 1,283 reports of bias , an increase of 216% over the same span of time in 2022. The civil rights organization called that jump “unprecedented.”

In other words the ADL cited 832 antisemitic actual incidents , while the "council on American-Islamic Relations" is citing "bias."

I hope our readers will get the point.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
2.1.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.1    7 months ago

Yes, I guess that when someone, like me, posts that Rashida Tlaib should be ousted from congress it is an example of "bias", whereas when a Jewish student is beaten up on a campus by antisemites it is an example of an "incident".  That does explain for me the numbers you've quoted.  

Professor Principal
3  CB    7 months ago

Nobody should be touching anybody else in their "sacred spaces" - their bodies, their belongings, their reason for being.

It's okay to have a difference in opinions, to protest, and to write about white-hot anger or calls to calm!  But, to forsake all the commonsense one has gained throughout life about appropriate touching of another person is itself a self-inflicted wound of the mind!

We may want an opponent's thoughts about this and other matters, we do not want an opponent's hands or feet in violence in any form, shape, or fashion.


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