The Student Association has passed legislation with the intent of deterring anti-semitic and racist behavior from the student body and showing support for potential victims of discrimination at Oswego State and colleges across the nation.
The bill states: “It is important to show support for other college campuses in the country as well as spread awareness on important topics such as discrimination and prejudice.”
The legislation was passed in response to an incident that occurred at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. following the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur festivities. According to The Huffington Post, swastikas were found spray painted on the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house just a few hours after Yom Kippur had officially concluded. AEPi’s Oswego chapter, known as Omega Nu, was recently refounded as of 2012.
Emily Nassir is an SA senator who wrote and submitted the bill to the senate.
“The legislation gives some background on the incident that happened at Emory and talks about how necessary it is for us to spread the word that anti-semitism and other acts of discrimination aren’t OK,” Nassir said. “The actions we’re going to take are going to start with co-existence day, enforcing the idea to offenders that their hatred won’t be tolerated.”
As stated in the bill, co-existence day will occur annually on Oct. 22 now. Students are encouraged to wear white in support of people of all faiths and all walks of life.
Before the legislation was passed, Oswego State has been conducting diversity and inclusion training sessions run by the SA Director of Civic Engagement Christopher Collins-McNeil, who also sponsored the bill.
“My assistant director Justin Brantley and myself have been conducting diversity workshops on our campus,” Collins-McNeil said. “We have worked with over 200 student leaders to begin to recognize the privileges we all possess and then to use that privilege to lift someone else up. Our trainings are designed for students to begin to think about diversity and inclusion and how to incorporate what they have learned in their E-boards and their constituencies. Beginning to think about diversity and inclusion on the student leadership side will allow for every voice, opinion, and idea to be heard on this campus.”
The SA bill is expected to be beneficial not only to Jewish students who want to be less fearful of discrimination, but will also educate the rest of the student body
“I think this legislation will put a lot less stress on the body of those offended. It’ll be good for them,” said freshman Michael Gambro. “No one comes to college to be bullied or discriminated against. We all come here for an education. Scholarships and grants aside, we’re all paying the same price to come here and should be treated equally. If someone’s getting in the way of that, then that is a problem.”
Disturbances have occurred at Oswego State in the past, which played a factor in the passing of this legislation.
“This past spring semester there was a student here who had a swastika drawn onto their door as well as the incident regarding the student who attended a beer Olympics in black face,” Collins-McNeil said. “Unfortunately, legislation was not passed on this campus to acknowledge either of those events. However, it is important to speak up to injustice of any kind that occurs anywhere, but we must first address the issues at home, on this campus that affect the way we live and interact with one another.”
Last spring semester, a white student wore black paint on his face to a party. After being revealed on social media, this incident spurred racial protest.
“The largest incident at Oswego that I can talk about is that a student found a swastika drawn on a book in the library and another on a desk in a different part of the library,” Nassir said. “Recently, people have been speaking negatively of our new fraternity on campus Alpha Epsilon Pi because of their pride in being a Jewish fraternity and the fact that they like to advertise themselves as a Jewish fraternity.”
Anti-Semitism isn’t a concept that has recently started to come to prominence in American colleges. Several incidents, like what happened at Emory University, have occurred for a long period of time.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident on college campuses in North America and across the world,” Alpha Epsilon Pi’s Executive Director Andrew Boran said. “The rising tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on college campuses is widespread and must be stopped. Universities are a place for the free and open exchange of ideas and Jewish students should not be made to feel unsafe in their homes on campuses.”
Collins-McNeil agreed that there has to be a change and that it is SA’s responsibility to insight change within the student body.
“I am a firm believer in self-actualization and recognizing who you are and all that you are,” Collins-McNeil said. “One thing that differs between racial discrimination and religious discrimination is that religious affiliation can be disguised while other forms of discrimination are inescapable. Legislation within the Student Association can bring about awareness to student organizations and other students, but in order for progress and tangible change to be made discussions regarding religion, race, class, gender and sexual orientation must be held. Limits must be pushed and ideas must be challenged. Change starts with one and we all must start with ourselves.”
The actions also don’t come as a surprise to both the SA or the student body while they were distraught by the actions of the vandals at Emory University, but know that anti-semitism and acts associated with the belief is something that has happened for years.
“I would like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not,” Nassir said. “It’s scary in a surprising way that people still want to act out on these feelings, but I know that there are people in this world that feel that way and have no problem expressing it.”
“I expect other colleges do the same thing. We’re part of the SUNY system and we represent the state,” Gambro said. “Odds are good all other SUNY schools will do the same. It would make colleges more socially and financially acceptable. Socially, because people of many different cultures won’t be afraid to come to a college where they will be discriminated against.”
Editor’s Note: The original headline of this article mistakenly read “SA passes new legislation to advocate anti-semitism.” This was an error that The Oswegonian deeply regrets as it should have read “SA passes new legislation to advocate against anti-semitism.”