A swastika defaced Associate Professor Joseph Roisman’s door in April, 1994.

When a long series of anti-Semitic incidents began occuring at Colby during the spring of 1994, students, faculty and staff ultimately took action.

While isolated hate crimes are reported at Colby periodically, a string of three incidents in just a few weeks began to raise concern in February, 1994. First, a student was harassed because of his Jewish faith while in Miller Library. Then, a swastika was left in masking tape on a banner at an off-campus party. Later, the words “Hebes suck” was found carved into a wooden desk in a classroom in Keyes. These incidents were believed to be related, and the Campus Community Committee decided to draft a statement condemning the acts.

Students gather to protest hate crimes.

In late March and early April, though, several more swastikas began appearing in the Student Center and in Mudd. While this prompted more concern, it was a swastika drawn in the center of a Star of David hanging on the door of Associate Professor of Classics Joseph Roisman, the first swastika to be directed at a specific person, that resulted in one student taking significant action.

Jon Medwed ’94, with the help of students and faculty, organized a rally for April 15, 1994, to unite the campus against such hate crimes. About 800 people attended the rally, which featured both student and faculty speakers.

The following quotes are from speakers as recorded in the Colby Echo:

  • “This should be a place of education, not degradation. We should not allow this nightmare to continue. Wake up and realize the equality of all human beings and the equal responsibility to ease each other’s pain.” -Mike Miller ’95
  • “We are tired of our campus being represented by the swastika. It is an attack on all humanity.” -Jon Medwed ’94
  • If Hitler had won, he would have killed us too. It is not about issues of free speech, politics or culture. It is about the destruction of the soul. We look for ways of putting ourselves up by putting other people down. We can choose humanity or we can choose brutality.” -Professor Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Unfortunately, two more swastikas appeared on campus later in April, raising the total number to thirteen. One was accompanied by the words “Hitler lives, Jews die” which, being a written death threat, is a federal offense and resulted in an FBI investigation. Also, an on-campus call was made to WMHB, Colby’s radio station, requesting four anti-Semitic songs one evening in late April. Though it would be confirmed that the perpetrator was a student at Colby, who left following shortly thereafter, the April 15 rally symbolized one of the largest rallies in Colby history, bringing out unprecedented numbers of students in opposition to hate.