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June 13, 2002

Chancellor defends Pitt's response to Hillel graffiti

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg this week denied accusations that his administration responded apathetically to anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on the Hillel Jewish University Center several weeks ago.

At Faculty Assembly on June 4, Richard Tobias — chairperson of the University Senate's anti-discriminatory policies committee — called the Pitt administration's response "bland," contrasting it unfavorably with Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon's quick issuance of a campus memo condemning the graffiti.

"All the University [of Pittsburgh] said was, 'It's not our property, so it's not our issue,'" Tobias said. "Well, we think it is our issue."

The Hillel center, located at 4551 Forbes Ave., serves both Pitt and CMU students.

At Monday's Senate Council meeting, Nordenberg said Tobias's criticism "simply does not reflect the responses that the [graffiti] incident generated here." Nordenberg said he offered help and expressed his personal outrage to the Hillel center's director "virtually as soon as we were made aware" that someone had painted a swastika on the building.

"A series of issues on the CMU campus had led President Cohon to draft a statement that was essentially in final form" by April 26, when Hillel center vandalism was discovered, Nordenberg said. "When he learned of the Hillel incident, he was able to modify [his statement] to include reference to this recent incident."

According to Nordenberg, Cohon offered to let him co-sign the statement. But Nordenberg declined — for two reasons, the chancellor said: The statement was "very CMU-specific," and one of the potential target audiences at Pitt, the student body, had virtually disappeared by the afternoon of April 26, the Friday before Pitt's commencement.

— Bruce Steele

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