The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Feb. 27, 2014
A student executive’s office was broken into and vandalized on the eve of a controversial referendum at the University of Windsor.
Today marks the first of three voting days of an undergraduate student referendum that seeks official endorsement of the growing Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.
Jake DeJong, vice-president academic affairs, arrived at the university at 9 a.m. this morning to discover vandals entered his locked office the evening prior, ransacking it and defaced a Support our Troops flag with the Star of David and the word “ZIONIST” above it in blue spray paint.
Campus Community Police, Windsor Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police were on scene at the CAW Student Centre today dusting for fingerprints and photographing the crime scene.
“My immediate reaction is mostly shock and awe,” said DeJong. “This isn’t just an attack against my office, this is an attack against me and my position.”
Windsor Police have classified the case as a break-and-enter and hate crime.
“An office was broken into sometime overnight and the suspect(s) spray painted a message inside the office that was deemed to be racist in nature,” said Sergeant Matthew D’Asti, the public information officer for Windsor Police via a public news update Thursday afternoon. “Windsor Police are working with The University of Windsor Campus Police on this investigation in an attempt to identify the person(s) responsible.”
DeJong emphasized that he isn’t “for or against either side” of the BDS referendum. Rather, he stressed that his objective is geared towards student safety. “I’m for student safety and making sure that the (referendum) question that is asked is fair and equitable to both sides so we can get a true view from the student body.”
“I feel violated and I have no idea what to do,” he added.
The international BDS movement aims to support Palestinians through a boycott of Israeli made goods and companies that do business with Israel, divestment from Israeli companies and those with ties to Israel and the sanctioning of the Israeli government.
In Canada, undergraduate student unions at Regina, Carleton, York, Trent and Toronto universities have endorsed the BDS movement in one form or another. On Feb. 26, University of California, Los Angeles voted down such measures.
UWSA President Rob Crawford said his organization doesn’t condone what has occurred in the student centre.
“The entire organization stands behind Jake and we strongly condemn any acts of hate speech, violence, vandalism or intimidation against any student,” said Crawford. “A safe and equitable campus is our top priority.”
The referendum has caused significant controversy on campus with reports of threats of violence and intimidation. Crawford alleged in an open address to students via his president’s blog that one of his executives verbally threatened a student, that the incident was reported to campus police and that students from both sides of the issue have been defacing or tearing down campaign materials.
“When I started as a University of Windsor student, I never saw this kind of thing developing because I always thought that we were a safe and cohesive student body. But this year has just gotten worse and worse with the division,” said DeJong.
Representatives from the three police services were not immediately available for comment on today’s break-in and other reports received related to the BDS referendum.
Windsor police have issued a press release asking anybody with information about the crime to contact the police at 519-255-6700 ext. 4305, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 519-258-8477 (TIPS), online at catchcrooks.com, or via their official Facebook page.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.