Swastikas, Hate Speech Found in San Jose State Dorm Rooms

San Jose State students found two swastikas and “hateful language” in campus dorms Tuesday, prompting an investigation.

The Nazi insignias were found in freshman quarters at Washburn Hall and Campus Village, according to the university’s new president, Mary Papazian. One of the symbols was formed using name tags from the room doors and accompanied by the phrase, “Admit One Jew.” The other was drawn with marker on a white board in a residence hall suite.

Papazian sent an update to students and faculty later in the day Thursday to announce that the school had identified the students responsible for the vandalism. Though the incidents were bias-based, she said, police determined that they fell short of a hate crime because they targeted no one in particular.

“I am both saddened and outraged by this news,” Papazian wrote in a campus-wide email on Wednesday. “Although I am in Long Beach for CSU meetings, I have spoken with campus and community leaders and shared our resolve to provide a safe learning environment where difficult issues can be addressed collaboratively and transparently.”

This week’s incident bears troubling similarity to a hate crime that shook the SJSU campus in 2013. In that case, three freshmen students were found guilty of misdemeanor battery for relentlessly bullying a black classmate. They clamped a bike lock around his neck and called him “three-fifths,” a reference to America’s history of slavery. They also marked up the campus suite with racist graffiti, including a swastika.

The university hired a chief diversity officer, Kathleen Wong Lau, soon after a trial on the matter ended earlier this year. On Wednesday, she met with students to talk about the latest incident.

When she returned from her trip to SoCal, Papazian spoke with faculty, local civil rights leaders, reporters and students. She also scheduled a meeting to discuss the campus climate on Sept. 29 and a town hall forum with students on Oct. 5.

“We all want to understand and make sense of these deeply disturbing acts,” she wrote in a Thursday afternoon bulletin. “I’ve been reminded by several of you that symbols and words can carry different meaning and significance depending on one’s age, ethnicity, race, gender, faith and other factors.”

University officials ask anyone with information about who left the swastikas and hate speech in the dorms this week to call campus police at 408.924.2222.

This article has been updated.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. As a Jew and SJSU alumnus I am troubled by swatikas and the potential threat they imply to students in their home away from home. That said, saying this “bears a troubling similarity” to an assault, battery and other personal attacks and bullying on a black student by his roommates seems to overlook how much more violent and personally damaging the latter was to the student who was victimized.

  2. We were taught that the 1st Amendment was not written so people could write good things about Mom, apple pie, and the Flag. Rather, the Constitution protects the kind of speech (and writing) that is unpopular… like this “hate” speech.

    But as usual, the left turns the Constitution upside-down, because they hate it. They are nothing if not anti-American.

    And do the “victims” who were the (un-named) target of “hate speech” even understand that they have recourse? There are plenty of lawyers who would love to sue on their behalf.

    But, NO-O-O-O. And since SJSU admins have nothing better to do, they run around in circles, flapping their wings and telling everyone the sky is falling.

    It isn’t; this tempest in a teapot was nothing more than a little acorn, which would have been forgotten over the weekend if these self-serving hand-wringers had simply ignored it.

    But Chicken Little would be proud of those SJSU snowflakes, and their incessant, wild-eyed clucking. It’s certainly more fun than, like, teaching what the Constitution says — and why.

  3. ‘A report released by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s “Hate Response Team” shows that more than 10 percent of reported hate incidents were determined to be fake or frivolous.

    In fact, the report notes that 28 of 192 reports were found to be either completely fake or “not a bias/hate incident,” accounting for 14 percent of all incidents reported.”


  4. Given the PC world this has become, and the thin skins so prevalent these days, 14% seems a modest number.

  5. The First Amendment protects purveyors of “hate speech”, which has no legal definition by the way. It also protects those who carry or display “hate symbols”, like a swastika, for instance. It does not protect spray painting a swastika on someone else’s building, but it does protect spraying a swastika on your own building. Should the perpetrators be caught, about the only thing SJSU can do about whatever it is that happened, is to seek criminal prosecution for misdemeanor vandalism for the graffiti, and petty theft for the theft of the dorm room name plates. There is also serious question about whether SJSU, a state school, could administer punishment within the university system, such as suspending or expelling the perpetrators.

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