The University of Maryland has seen a spike in hate bias incident reports on campus in recent weeks after a surge of violence in Israel and Palestine.
At least 46 hate bias incidents were reported to this university’s Bias Incident Support Services office in November — the highest number of reports in any single month since the Bias Incident Support Services office was created, according to this university’s diversity and inclusion office.
The Bias Incident Support Services office received 30 hate bias incident reports from September to November in the fall 2022 semester. The office has received 112 reports during that same time in the fall 2023 semester.
Nearly 80 percent of all hate bias incidents reported to this university’s Bias Incident Support Services office in 2023 occurred in October and November.
There were 37 hate bias incident reports in October 2023, including eight reports involving “harm against” individuals of Jewish or Muslim backgrounds. Five additional reports were related to national origin and ethnicity, according to the office.
The office defines hate bias incidents as “acts characterized by some expression of bias against a particular group.” Incidents can also target individuals for their real or perceived membership within a certain group, the office said.
However, incidents shown on the dashboard are only “reports.” They do not have to meet certain metrics to be considered official hate bias incident, according to the office. Any situation reported to this university’s Bias Incident Support Services appears on the dashboard as a hate bias incident regardless of its severity, according to the office.
Bias Incident Support Services data also does not reflect hate bias incidents reported to other campus entities, such as the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, Office of Student Conduct and the University of Maryland Police Department.
On Nov. 27, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said there has been a “sharp increase” in threats directed toward Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. as violence has unfolded in Israel and Palestine.
“The alarming international rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia at many college campuses, including our own, must be addressed head-on,” university president Darryll Pines said in a campuswide email last week.
On Oct. 7, Hamas militants launched an attack from the blockaded Gaza strip that killed hundreds, the Associated Press reported. The Israeli government declared war against Hamas the next day and has since launched thousands of airstrikes on Gaza, the Associated Press reported.
More than 15,500 people in Palestine and 1,200 people in Israel have been killed since Oct. 7, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
This reality has left some students at this university feeling unsafe and scared on campus.
One Palestinian student at this university, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, usually wears a necklace with a pendant shaped like a map of Palestine to give them strength and remind them of their heritage, they said. But recently, they have been hiding the necklace in situations on campus where they feel uncomfortable.
“It's not fair that I have to hide that part of me,” they said.
The student condemned hateful rhetoric toward students of Palestinian descent given the recent violence in the region. The student added that they are unsure whether some of their family and friends in Palestine are alive.
"I would just say … to not normalize [hate] when it comes to Muslims and Arabs,” they said. “It's very normalized, and we should not normalize it on our campus.”
An anonymous Palestinian graduate student at this university said they are “no stranger to hate bias on campus.” The student reported an incident last May to this university’s Bias Incident Support Services and met with a representative from the bias response team through Zoom.
More recently, the student has taken extra measures to feel safer on campus — including opting to not wear a Palestinian keffiyeh when walking alone.
“At the beginning of October, I had a Palestine pin that was just the flag on my backpack,” the student said. “I took it off for a few weeks because I was afraid of being assaulted or something like that, which unfortunately, is not an illegitimate fear.”
Concerns from students at this university are part of a national trend of threats and violence targeting students with connections to the region.
A man shot three Palestinian college students on a walk in Burlington, Vermont, on Nov. 25, the Associated Press reported. All three victims were sent to a medical center. One has been released, and another faces a “long recovery” due to a spinal injury, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The attack is being investigated as a possible hate crime, the Associated Press reported Nov. 27.
Some students at this university have also raised concerns about antisemitism on campus. Multiple colleges across the country have seen a rise in hate bias incidents targeting the Jewish community.
UMPD officers were dispatched to Queen Anne’s Hall at 2:10 a.m. on Oct. 29 to address messages targeting the Jewish community on a resident’s whiteboard, according to department spokesperson Lt. Rosanne Hoaas. Another Queen Anne’s resident had their whiteboard altered in a similar way, according to UMPD.
Junior journalism major Miguel Zárate, who lives on the floor where the incident occurred, said he has many Jewish friends who were upset after the recent incidents.
“They're scared to say the least,” Zárate said. “They’re really upset and it just sucks to see.”
Junior management major Ari Geller, who is involved with Maryland Hillel, said the past few weeks have been the “scariest time” in his life to be Jewish.
Growing up, Geller could never fully understand how Jewish people could be targeted across the world, but recent antisemitic events have made clear to him how World War II became a tragedy for Jewish people, he said.
It is frustrating to see people complicit in antisemitism, Geller added.
“Yet, I still proudly wear a kippah every day and I'm still proud to publicly show that I’m Jewish,” Geller said. “I try to not let fear dictate the way I control myself.”
Geller was among dozens of students who gathered at Maryland Hillel on Nov. 16 for a town hall hosted by this university’s Jewish Student Union to address the university’s response to antisemitism on campus.
Several university administrators spoke at the town hall, including student affairs vice president Patty Perillo, UMPD Chief David Mitchell and the university’s diversity and inclusion vice president Georgina Dodge.
“We will continue to be in partnership with you beyond this just one forum. This is not performative. We're not just showing up now and leaving. We have shown up since Oct. 7 and we will continue to show up because you matter to us,” Perillo said at the Nov. 16 town hall. “We care about you and we care about the Jewish community.”
Several students at the town hall raised concerns about campus antisemitism, including expressions at a Nov. 9 demonstration organized by this university's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on Hornbake Plaza.
At the event, students chalked a message that read “Holocaust 2.0.” UMPD is still investigating the chalking as a hate bias incident.
An anonymous Students for Justice in Palestine member told The Diamondback the message was a “faulty parallel” in “calling the genocide in Gaza right now Holocaust 2.0.”
Several chapter members crossed out the message after seeing it, the member said.
Senior journalism major Natalie Davis, a Jewish student who attended the town hall, said that although the intent of the chalked message might have been to compare events, the impact of the message can still affect students. Both impact and intent are important when viewing these types of statements, she said.
“When someone says something that they don't personally think is hateful, but then it impacts someone in the way that they believe that it's hateful, then it's like, ‘oh, well, you weren't intending to be hateful, but you were anyway, because the impact was received,” Davis said. “I think that's the distinguishing point, at least in my head, where you have to define the impact rather than the intent.”
In a recent campuswide email, Pines announced the university’s plans to establish a task force to confront antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus. The task force will be composed of students, faculty and staff, Pines wrote.
UMPD has also hired 80 additional staff to its auxiliary police unit who will monitor campus demonstrations and the university entrance gates, Pines added.
Before the events of Oct. 7, Davis said there may have been hesitancy to report hate bias incidents on a national level. But conversations about hate bias are becoming more normalized as reports increase, she said.
Senior computer science major Raphael Kaplan, a Jewish student who attended the town hall, said it has been “terrible” to see an increase in hate on campus. If students come together and have open conversations, they may recognize they have more in common than they might think, he added.
“People tend to conflate people on campus, Terps, with people who are planning a war thousands of miles away,” Kaplan said. “It's a shame that people are calling out Jews for issues with the Israeli government or the IDF and it's a shame that people are calling out Muslims for things that Hamas has been doing.”
Another anonymous Students for Justice in Palestine member recounted how as they were walking with their friends — some of whom wore hijabs — away from an event on Hornbake Plaza, one of their friends spoke Urdu. A person walked by and said, “well at least I don’t support terrorism.”
“I believe everyone has a right to freedom of speech, but I also believe scaring people, calling them terrorists left and right … that's not okay in any regard,” they said.
Another anonymous Students for Justice in Palestine member said they have had similar experiences with hate on campus.
“It's definitely affected me personally just to see so many people that I know just get harassed,” they said. “I think it's a big reason why so many people are so afraid to speak out and voice their opinion on this issue, because they're so afraid of the backlash that comes with it.”