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March 30, 2021: Update on Swastika Images Incident

I am writing to provide a brief update on the incident that occurred in late January, which included the discovery of four images appearing to be swastikas in the East Tower elevator on the Peabody Campus. 

To recap, in response to this matter, the University and Peabody took the following action in the days immediately following the report:

  • Upon receipt of the report, the University immediately alerted federal law enforcement of a potential hate crime and initiated investigations by Security and OIE.
  • On January 25, 2021, the Peabody Institute issued a community-wide message condemning the etchings, and identified steps being taken. 
  • On January 26, 2021, the University issued a community-wide communication about the report of swastikas on the Peabody campus and condemned the swastika as a hate symbol.
  • On January 28, 2021, the Peabody Institute held a Town Hall for the greater Peabody community to voice their thoughts and concerns in response to the report of swastikas. Representatives from Security and OIE attended the Town Hall.
  • On January 30, 2021, the Peabody Institute removed the swastikas and swastika-like etchings from the East Tower elevator.

As a result of this incident, complaints were filed with the Office of Institutional Equity, which has been conducting an investigation independent of law enforcement to assess any violations of university policy.  The OIE investigation has now been closed.  While that investigation was unable to identify the individual or individuals responsible for the markings, it was determined that more likely than not, the etchings were made at some point between February 2018 and Fall 2019.  OIE further determined that the swastika and swastika-like etchings were objectively hostile and sufficiently severe to create a religiously hostile academic environment in violation of the JHU Statement on Equal Opportunity and Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures

I want to reiterate that there is simply no place in our community at Peabody for hate speech.  Members of our community, including conservatory students, receive discrimination and harassment training in various forms, and that will continue going forward.  In addition, in the future we will require other visitors to our campus, particularly those using residential facilities during the summer, receive information about university policies around discrimination and harassment, and require those organizations to provide training to their constituencies present on our campus. 

In addition, we should all remember that it is important to report anything you see that could be construed as hate speech either to a faculty or staff member, or the Office of Institutional Equity directly.  Timely reporting is essential. 

Finally, as it pertains to the law enforcement investigations, those investigations remain open.

I will continue to keep you updated on this incident as appropriate.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any concerns as it relates to this matter.