Campus darkened by hate speech incidents

In the month of September, two separate incidents of hate speech occurred on the Hamline campus, shaking the university on all levels, and leading to responses from administration.


Nathan Steeves
Hamline University’s Old Main, an iconic aspect of Hamline’s history now housing administrative offices and staff.

Lydia Meier, News Reporter

*Content warning: this piece includes details of racially motivated and antisemitic incidents on the Hamline campus.*


With the 2021-22 academic year underway for a month and a half, the Hamline community has already seen two known incidents of hate speech, sparking a conversation surrounding school policies, institutional transparency and respect.

On the night of Sept. 9, an unidentified individual or individuals wrote a message including a racial slur on the door decorations of a Schilling Hall dorm room. The students in the dorm–who wish to remain anonymous–alerted their RA, who told their Area Coordinator, John Schmidt. By the next afternoon, Schmidt sent out an email to Schilling residents condemning the event as “a hindrance to the type of community we work to foster” and asking for information on the event. As of Oct. 7, the perpetrator has not been identified.

Assistant Director of Residential Life Yolanda Armstrong says that the incident was reported to Vice President and Dean of Students Patti Kersten, Hedgeman Center Director and Associate Dean of Students Carlos Sneed and Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence David Everett.

Heights and Apartment residents were invited to “a ‘chocolate and chat’ a couple weeks later,” Armstrong explained. “We held space with David Everett and the Dean of Students Patti Kersten to be able to give students who did show up an opportunity to speak.”

Students have responded in many ways, from being upset that this issue wasn’t initially explained to the campus community, to being angry that the perpetrator was still unidentified. 

“I think one of the things that I was disappointed in hearing is that Residential Life didn’t do anything,” Armstrong said. That was just very disheartening because we immediately responded… And I just want to be able to let students know that we’re there for them.” 

Before campus tensions had time to be resolved, another incident of hate speech occurred on Sept. 27 in a first year-writing course taught by Dr. Trevor Maine, the Oracle’s adviser. During a class conversation about establishing ethical discussion boundaries, a student wiped clean the class Jamboard and posted an image of the cover of “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler, a symbol of antisemitic media.

“It shocked me,” Maine said. “[I] sort of immediately switched to action, right? So I demanded that it get taken down and in the strongest language that I could… think of condemned it, as, you know, inappropriate, offensive, insensitive. And yeah, and then tried in that moment… to begin trying to reestablish the classroom as a safe space.”

After class, Maine reached out to his department heads and Patti Kersten documenting the incident and sent a follow-up to the class. 

“[The email was to] underscore the degree to which I felt the safety and trust had been lost in the classroom and I asked that the person come forward voluntarily, which they then immediately did,” Maine said. 

As he understands it, the student also reached out to Patti Kersten.

With his department heads, Maine decided that he wanted the students in his class to have a chance to process the event, “independent of the person who had posted it.” The class spent a day discussing the incident with Maine and Kris Deffenbacher, head of the first-year writing program.

The student responsible has since been removed from Maine’s class, but Professor Maine said he and his students aren’t done processing. 

“There are times over and over throughout the semester–and there will be more times–when lesson plans that would have been about race, about disability, about antisemitism… come up and they’re profoundly different because we have an experience of seeing that image together in that space.”

The incident has prompted a campus discussion on how concerns from Jewish students can often go unnoticed or unaddressed.

Rabbi Esther Adler of the Wesley Center is satisfied with how Hamline responded to what happened and recognizes how this will be an ongoing conversation.

“I…hope that the university’s clear messaging about not tolerating such behavior will discourage potential haters in the future.  While both racism and antisemitism are examples of hate, they are each unique, and increased education about both is important,” Adler wrote in an email statement to the Oracle.  “Jews are a very small minority on campus, and are often invisible to the larger community. JSL presented an excellent panel on antisemitism last Spring; unfortunately very few people attended.  I believe ignorance is often the source of antisemitism, and I wish more of our community had been or will be open to learning about it.”

An Oct. 5 email to all Hamline students from the organization Jewish Student Life writes, “We at JSL, and the Wesley Center, strongly condemn antisemitism in all of its forms and are dedicated to eradicating it from our community and the world at large… Antisemitism has no place on our campus and must not be tolerated.”

Both incidents of hate speech have resulted in many emotions from students, leading to some tension on campus. Hamline University addressed these issues on Oct. 5 in an email from President Miller titled “Addressing the Hamline Campus Climate.” 

The email details the two incidents and promises “institutional transparency.” It was signed by President Fayneese Miller, Interim Provost Andy Rundquist, Vice President and Dean of Students Patti Kersten, and Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence David Everett. 

 The statement condemns the incidents as “unacceptable.” Institutional actions detailed in the email include more transparent responses to “actions that inflict harm… through the invocation of discriminatory practices or symbols,” revising student conduct policies, and creating more opportunities for student positions on conduct boards.

“We acknowledge that these steps will neither produce immediate results, nor ameliorate the pain, hurt, and trauma caused by recent events,” the email also said.  “However, we hope our commitment to the work necessary to create change is evidenced by this communication, willingness to interrogate what we do as an institution, and take meaningful action.”

Everett thinks the institution is being more open and upfront about addressing these issues this year. 

“From what I’ve heard from students, obviously I recognize the level of frustration and concern… I think as we move forward, the more we’re able to reflect and show the different things that we’re doing, I think that will contribute to students and the community feeling a little better,” Everett said.  “I also think we’re learning as we go.As we begin to create some more formal structures around expectations.”


Any students affected by either of these incidents can reach out to campus resources such as Wesley Center staff (including Rabbi Adler and Chaplain Figueroa-Ray) and Counseling and Health Services (, or to student organizations like Black Student Collective ( and Jewish Student Life (


Editor’s Note: There will be more coverage as this situation continues to evolve. The Oct. 20 issue will include an article detailing student, administrative and faculty responses to the September incidents of hate speech. If you have an opinion or comment and would like to be interviewed, please email Lydia Meier at


Disclaimer: Dr. Trevor Maine is the adviser of the Oracle. He was used as a source in this article with no overseeing in a advisory-capacity.