Jewish fraternity vandalized with swastikas

The Vanderbilt University campus is seen shortly before sunrise in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 28, 2015. (Photo by Joe Buglewicz/The New York Times/Redux)
The Vanderbilt University campus is seen shortly before sunrise in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 28, 2015.

A traditionally Jewish fraternity at Vanderbilt University was defaced with swastikas early Sunday morning, when the Nazi symbol was spray-painted inside an Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter house at the Nashville school.

Campus police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime; the Nazi symbol was spray-painted in an elevator and on a basement door between 1:55 and 3:22 a.m. Sunday morning, campus officials said, after a Saturday night party.

Vanderbilt’s chapter becomes the third Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter to be vandalized with swastikas in the last six months, following similar incidents at Emory University and the University of California Davis last month. A fourth incident last summer in Oregon occurred, when a swastika was painted on a neighboring mailbox that faced the AEPi chapter at the University of Oregon.

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“This is not an isolated incident on college campuses in North America and across the world,” the national fraternity said in a statement. “The rising tide of anti-Semitism is very real and is undoubtedly connected to organized and concerted anti-Israel activities on college campuses. AEPi proudly stands with Israel and, just as proudly, will work to allow our members to express their support for Israel as well as their Jewish heritage in any way they want."

Vanderbilt officials said they would hold the perpetrator accountable for the incident. 

"Regardless of who is responsible and what the motivation was, the university condemns the reprehensible depiction of this symbol that since the time of Nazi Germany has come to be associated with hate, anti-Semitism, violence, death and murder," Vanderbilt's Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Wente said in a statement obtained by NBC News. "We understand the anguish and pain that this hateful symbol causes and we stand together to condemn any effort to intimidate or send an unwelcoming message to the Jewish members of the Vanderbilt community.”

Ari Dubin, executive director of Vanderbilt Hillel, spoke out on Facebook, calling the incident “inexcusable.” 

“There is no ambiguity about what happened here. Spray painting swastikas at a Jewish fraternity is not a college prank or some mischievous act of vandalism. It is a malicious attack intended to bring to mind the horrors of the Holocaust, to force us to feel different, endangered, and isolated,” he wrote on Facebook.