George Washington University: Jewish Student Suspended for Displaying Souvenir Indian Swastika
George Washington University
On March 18, 2015, George Washington University suspended a student, temporarily evicted him from university housing, and banned him from campus after the student posted a small souvenir swastika, purchased in India, on his residence hall’s bulletin board. The student, who is Jewish, had wanted to teach other residents about the cultural heritage of the swastika as a symbol of good luck, and stayed by the bulletin board in International House, which had recently been vandalized with drawn swastikas, to answer questions about it. After he left, a member of his fraternity reported the swastika to GWU’s police department. Though the student immediately claimed responsibility and attempted to make his intentions clear, GWU charged him with five conduct violations, including interfering with university events, disorderly conduct, and discrimination. It also reported his case to the District of Columbia police for investigation as a potential hate crime. Citing GWU’s promises of free expression, FIRE wrote to GWU on March 27, calling on the university to drop the charges against the student. On May 28, the university rescinded the suspension of the student and dropped the charges.