George Washington University: Jewish Student Suspended for Displaying Souvenir Indian Swastika

Category: Free Speech
Schools: George Washington University

On March 18, 2015, George Washington University (GWU) suspended a student, temporarily evicted him from university housing, and banned him from campus in response to his posting of 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, and reported his case for investigation by the District of Columbia police 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, whose disciplinary case is still pending.