The Program in French in the Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature endorses the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies’ statement: “No Room for Hate at UWM”.
At the start of this final week of spring classes at UWM, a student held a swastika sign near a public event celebrating Israeli Independence Day. Campus administration has noted that this reprehensible behavior is protected by the First Amendment and permissible on the campus of a public university. We are heartened, however, by the widespread clamor of the university community in speaking out against it, both at the time of the event and in the days since. As scholars of language, image, and culture, we recognize that publicly displaying Nazi symbols and shouting abhorrent slurs are not acts that we can ignore or dismiss as inconsequential, especially at a time when our country faces a rising numbers of violent hate crimes. Words and images shape our understanding of the world and impact our relationship to it, and we must push back against the words and images of Nazi ideology. As noted author Elie Wiesel pointed out in his 1986 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” and it is our responsibility as teachers, researchers, and global citizens not to remain silent now. The Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature wholeheartedly endorses the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies statement, “No Room for Hate at UWM.”