Students march against hate speech after anti-Semitic Valentine's Day card surfaces in Anspach Hall
About 60 students marched from the Fabiano Botanical Gardens to Warriner Hall in protest of hate speech at Central Michigan University on Thursday, Feb. 9.
Organizers from student activist group Central Michigan Action said the rally was not directly against any specific campus group or incident.
Many, however, marched in response to an anti-Semitic Valentine's Day card given to two students on Wednesday, Feb. 8. A post about the card card sparked outrage amongst students on social media and the story was reported nationally by The Washington Post on Thursday.
The card depicts Adolf Hitler saying, “my love 4 u burns like 6,000 jews.” A picture of the card was shared on social media after a member of the College Republicans gave his gift bag — allegedly by accident -— to a group of students from the Organization of Women Leaders at CMU.
The students were waiting for their meeting to begin in Anspach Hall as the College Republicans' meeting ended in the same building.
Members of Hillel at Central Michigan University, a Jewish student group on campus, organized the march with Central Michigan Action, a progressive political student organization. Alison Zywicki, a junior from West Bloomfield, said she was hurt when she saw the photo.
“Jokes aren’t OK,” Zywicki said. “It’s sad that we still find this as a humorous thing to do, even if it was an accident.”
The president and vice president of Hillel both read statements about their own experiences with hate speech at the march.
“Middle school was the first time I experienced blatant hate speech,” Hillel at CMU President Hadley Platek said. “'Stupid Jew' is what (I was) called for wearing my ‘Happy Hanukkah’ button. During difficult times such as this, when hate speech has been made clear on our campus, we must choose to embrace our identities and the identities of others, and fight back with resistance, positivity and strength.”
College Republicans released a statement did not condone the card and said the group was unaware of its existence. They also apologized for the offensive content.
“At tonight’s College Republican meeting, we had a Valentine’s Day party, in which each member decorated a bag and other members placed valentines inside of others’ bags," reads the statement.
"Unfortunately, a very inappropriate card was placed into a bag without other members’ knowledge. A bag was then given away to students sitting in Anspach, once again without members’ knowledge of its contents.
"The College Republicans as an organization did not distribute this valentine. We in no way condone this type of rhetoric or anti-Semitism. We apologize for any offense, and want students to know that we do not tolerate this sort of behavior."
Mackenzie Flynn, president of College Republicans at CMU, said members of the group joined the march against hate speech.
“It was really encouraging to see College Republicans come out and show up,” said Rockford junior Evan Wittenbach, a coordinator for Central Michigan Action. “We invited them to come out and they accepted our invitation. It was really encouraging to see them taking a stance against hate speech as well.”
University President George Ross released a statement Thursday afternoon saying officials from the president and vice president's offices, the Office for Civil Rights and Institutional Equity, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Student Affairs, Student Activities and Involvement, and the CMU Police Department all met Thursday morning to discuss the card and its hateful message.
"We are deeply disappointed by last night’s situation with a Valentine card containing an inappropriate sentiment that was produced during a student organization meeting," Ross wrote. "This is not who we are as a campus community. Such hurtful, offensive language, while protected by the First Amendment, is unacceptable and is not consistent with our values and standards."
CMU Associate Professor Michael Mamp said he appreciates Ross's comments.
"I'm the last surviving member of my maternal family," he wrote in the comments section of CM-Life's Facebook post. "The Holocaust impacted my family for generations. I'm disgusted and ashamed of whoever at CMU perpetuated this flagrant anti-Semitism."
Mamp said he wants everyone at CMU to "recognize this hateful act targeted a specific marginalized group at CMU, and that is the Jewish community."