On Thursday, Oct. 26 the Associated Student Body (ASB) held an open Senate meeting to address concerns about Islamophobia and antisemitism at Lewis & Clark.
The Muslim Student Association (MSA), LC Hillel and Arabic Club were a few of the groups that were invited to the Senate meeting, along with anyone else who wanted to discuss this issue. Administration representatives were also present at the meeting, including Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life Hilary Martin Himan, Career Center Executive Director Rocky Campbell, Director of Emergency Management Bill Curtis, Office for Student Accessibility (OSA) Director Aimee Milne, Associate Dean and Associate Professor Janet Bixby and Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement Joann Zhang.
The topics of discussion on the agenda included the Oct. 16 graffiti and possible responses from ASB, antisemitism and Islamophobia, an alleged physical assault of a student on campus, administrative responses to these incidents, potential improvements and possible measures the ASB Senate can take to show solidarity with all students.
The meeting began with a land acknowledgment and announcements from student groups. ASB Vice President Madeleine MacWilliamson led the discussion.
“I want you to speak from the heart. It’s okay to be emotional, but just consider yourself when you’re talking to others. I also wanted to bring up the ASB value statement about what student government is supposed to do, and part of our role is facilitating better communication between students, faculty, administration and the entire Lewis & Clark community,” MacWilliamson said. “With what we’re here to try to do today, we hope to be ethical, just, effective and community based, as well as transparent … This is a very difficult topic. Please make space for yourself.”
After the opening statements, the meeting moved on to focus on the Oct. 16 graffiti incident, in which multiple buildings on campus were vandalized. MacWilliamson said that last year’s graffiti removal cost about $20,000 and this year’s $15,000.
Students shared many different reactions. Some students spoke about graffiti as a method of activism and argued for it as a form of expression. Others found messages such as “drop out of school” and “skip class” counterproductive at an institution of higher education. Some shared thoughts about how LC has a culture of entitlement where students do not feel that they should take responsibility for harmful actions.
Some could classify the graffiti as harmful for a variety of reasons, including the cost of cleanup which administration could have otherwise put toward increasing accessibility and financial aid, and the potentially inflammatory nature of the messages. Specifically, students said that the graffiti that read “Free Palestine” made some feel targeted and unsafe in the campus community.
This shifted the meeting’s focus to provide a platform for student perspectives. MacWilliamson then called for a moment of silence to reflect on all the lives lost during the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Students spoke about how they have been personally affected by tensions on campus and voiced their perspectives on contentious issues which have been debated on campus in the past weeks.
The group discussed how the phrase “Free Palestine” could be considered a form of antisemitism: not because this phrase is inherently antisemitic, but because it can lead to targeting of Jewish and/or Israeli students, pressuring them to publicly dissect and defend their own identities and how they may or may not relate to Israel and Zionism. For many, this is a difficult, personal and emotional issue on which they may feel uncomfortable taking a public stance.
Attendees also discussed how “Free Palestine” can lead to the discussion of expelling Jewish people from the region of Palestine and Israel, which could promote antisemitic behavior in Israel and abroad. Regardless of one’s political stance, such blanket statements can exacerbate tensions and spread bias at the expense of actionable and thoughtful discussion.
Maya Mazor-Hoofien ’26 currently works for The Mossy Log as a features editor, but also participated in the meeting to share her perspective as a Jewish and Israeli student.
“Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel are not mutually exclusive things. Nowhere in an experience with antisemitism is there anything that says ‘There is not Islamophobia happening,’” Mazor-Hoofien said. “There is horrific behavior happening all over this campus to many different people, and none of that cancels out any of the rest of it.”
MacWillliamson then guided the conversation in the direction of talking about the alleged violent assault on campus. Rumors had been circulating among students since the alleged incident the week of Oct. 15. At the time of the meeting, administration had not yet publicly addressed these rumors, and many students were calling for them to do so.
“I have heard conflicting opinions about whether or not (reports of the assault) should be private. It has been posted about a lot on (students’) Instagram stories,” MacWilliamson said.
In addition to the alleged physical altercation, students spoke about various verbal assaults that had occurred on campus. Suhail Akram ’24 said that other students told him about an alleged physical assault, and alleged verbal assaults. He also mentioned that he had found hate speech on a student’s Instagram stories. Akram explained why he would appreciate better open communication with school administration.
“If an incident like that happened on campus, I would like the school to tell us, because it was extremely vulnerable and nobody knew about it,” Akram said.
The MSA president voiced their concern and frustration at what they considered insufficient communication and response from administration. Before the meeting, they had contacted Himan, as well as other departments on campus, to discuss their thoughts.
“As President of the MSA, I felt that students had a right to know that something had happened, and that it may happen again on campus, because I had no idea who the individual was and I had no idea that they were still on campus. I had no idea that the school was even aware of the issue,” they said. “That was really frustrating, because I, along with the MSA, had to send out an email saying that something had happened, but ‘We don’t know more and we are trying to get information, but that’s all we can tell you at this time.’”
The MSA president also stated the importance of open communication between administrators and students, which they feel has not been adequately created. They expressed concern over the possibility of future incidents and questioned whether students have been given enough information and support in the response to this first alleged incident to feel protected going forward.
“Our main concern is how the administration can be more transparent with us, because it is really not fair that we feel like our voices are being silenced. I am hearing there is an investigation … I respect that investigation, but at the same time students living on campus have a right to believe what they believe without fear of being attacked, whether they are Jewish or Muslim or anything else,” the MSA president said.
Administration then spoke about the process of the investigation and the college’s policy for classifying and responding to such incidents.
Rocky Campbell explained that there was a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24 as well as a meeting with Vice President of Student Life Evette Castillo Clark and Associated Vice President of Campus Living Ben Meoz, who asked Campbell to share a statement on their behalf at the Senate meeting, since they were both out of state for the week.
“While we are not able to share details about the specific conduct-related incident due to student privacy laws, please know that any and all reports we have received are being addressed by multiple college offices, including Student Rights and Responsibilities,” Campbell said on behalf of Meoz and Castillo Clark.
He mentioned the steps that the college was taking in response, and disclosed that the incident is not currently being categorized as a bias-based assault.
“We are aware of the alleged (physical) assault that occurred on campus and immediately took action based on our conduct policies and procedures. The investigation is not complete, but based on the firsthand information we have about the incident, we have no reason to believe that at this point, this incident was bias-based,” Campbell said.
Furthermore, Campbell said that there was no ongoing threat related to this specific incident. Campbell told those present that they would have been notified if the college determined that this was an ongoing threat, and emphasized that safety on campus is the administration’s highest priority.
Given that the administration’s report on the investigation does not classify the alleged assault as bias- or hate-based, students questioned what a bias- or hate-based assault would entail. MacWilliamson read aloud from the LC web page the college’s Harassment and Hate- or Bias-Motivated Conduct Policy, which is contained within the Student Code of Conduct. The policy lists protected characteristics before defining prohibited types of conduct based on these characteristics, including “Color, race, ethnicity, national origin, ancestry or citizenship status.”
While terms such as discrimination, harassment and hate crimes are used colloquially, in order to enact consistent and unbiased protocol it is necessary to establish clear, actionable definitions.
“Discrimination occurs when a person unfairly deprives another of a right, benefit or privilege and/or unfairly treats another differently because of one of the actual or perceived characteristics outlined above,” the Conduct Policy states. “Harassment occurs when a person engages in conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, campus living, athletic or academic environment. Conduct which has the purpose or effect of causing a hostile or offensive environment may constitute harassment even if it is not motivated by one of the characteristics outlined above.”
The code of conduct makes a distinction between discrimination, which can be accidental but must be based on these characteristics, harassment, which can be accidental and need not be based on these characteristics, and hate- or bias-motivated conduct, which is intentional and based on these characteristics.
“Hate- or bias-motivated conduct occurs when a person intentionally humiliates or intimidates another because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics outlined above,” the Conduct Policy states.
At the end of the Senate meeting, Campbell said that the investigation into alleged verbal, digital and physical attacks is still ongoing.
On Friday, Oct. 27, the day after the meeting, Castillo Clark sent out an email to all CAS students addressing the issues discussed, focusing especially on the alleged assault.
“While we cannot discuss the specifics of alleged incidents, we are committed to ensuring your safety while on campus. At Lewis & Clark, we take any threat to our campus community, whether from external sources or internal community members, very seriously. We will not tolerate violence of any kind. Harassment, bias or hate based conduct will not be tolerated, including antisemitism or Islamophobia. We want to reassure you that our dedicated administrators follow a well-established protocol whenever there is an actual or perceived threat,” Castillo Clark wrote.
Castillo Clark explained that the college has a protocol in place to assess potential threats. The protocol entails a multistep process of accessing a perceived threat, evaluating its impact and enacting necessary safety measures. When incidents meet specific criteria, like being a reportable crime, the college issues “Timely Warnings,” as part of the Clery Act, to the community.
“We are aware of rumors about bias-related violence on campus—in particular, a rumor of a bias-related assault between a Muslim student and a Jewish student. This rumor is untrue, although Campus Safety did respond to a reported assault. There have been no substantiated reports of bias-motivated violence on our campus,” Castillo Clark stated.
She also expanded on other reported non-violent bias-related incidents unrelated to the assault.
“We have received confidential reports of non-violent bias incidents, including those taking place on social media, and those are being addressed on an individual basis. We recognize the concerns and anxiety of many members of our community, particularly as they relate to incidents of bias, harassment, or discrimination,” Castillo Clark wrote.
She then addressed goals for the future, as the college moves forward under these tense circumstances.
“In the coming months, we will take intentional steps toward communication, support and unity in ways that feel hopeful on several levels—for individuals, for groups, and for our overall campus climate. Please take care of yourselves, others, and the college community where we live, work, learn, gather, and grow,” Castillo Clark stated.
The Center for Spiritual Life, OSA and the Student Counseling Center are providing expanded counseling resources in light of the Israel-Palestine conflict and recognition of the emotional toll these tensions are taking on many students.
Finally, Castillo Clark directed students to resources for reporting assault or harassment on campus. Administration especially encourages students to report any instance of antisemitism or Islamophobia. Reports can be submitted to the Bias Assessment and Response Team (BART) by accessing an online form at https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?LewisandClark&layout_id=8, and students are encouraged to contact Castillo Clark herself to discuss questions or concerns.
Despite these efforts, some students feel that the administration has not done enough.
“We students feel that the administration has been, as a whole, unresponsive to our concerns,” the MSA president commented later. “While dialogues have been encouraged to de-stigmatize the topic, we feel that the administration has been unable to adequately answer our questions, or to take accountability. The statement released by the administration regarding the current events have failed to recognize the injustices that have been happening against Palestinians for decades. In doing so, it also alienates marginalized identities within our own campus.”