Response to antisemitism
On January 21, 2024, Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD) Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt was one of six panelists at the JewishColumbus Law Enforcement Town Hall. The event took place at the Jewish Community Center in Columbus and focused on how law enforcement agencies, both separately and cooperatively, address antisemitic activity and crime.
On November 10, 2023, Ohio State Acting President Peter Mohler, in response to two horrible acts that took place near Ohio State’s campus, shared a message condemning antisemitism and clearly stating that the university has no tolerance for acts of hatred or violence. Ohio State will pursue all action possible against anyone committing hate crimes on or near our campus. Read the message here. The university also issued a Public Safety Notice.
The university strongly condemns antisemitism and all forms of discrimination on its campuses and throughout the national and international communities.
In accordance with the 2022 Executive Order 2022-06D, Ohio State adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
University-wide message from Acting President Mohler
On November 6, 2023, Ohio State Acting President Peter Mohler shared a message related to university actions and response, and reiterated that the university does not tolerate violations of the law or university policy. This includes but is not limited to antisemitism, bigotry, Islamophobia, racism, sexism and violence. Ohio State has not and will not tolerate hatred, intimidation or harassment of anyone based on their religious beliefs, nationality or identity. Read the message here.
Ohio State’s public condemnation of terrorism and Hamas
Ohio State strongly condemns all terrorist groups and terrorist attacks, including those perpetrated by Hamas on Israeli civilians, Americans and others the weekend of October 7, 2023. The university is deeply committed to supporting all students, faculty and staff and will address national and global matters through direct actions and interventions that actively support the university community and afford educational dialogue in safe and supportive environments. In general, the university reserves mass distributed, institutional statements for the rarest of circumstances. (See Key Issues entry on Ohio State Philosophy on Institutional and Leadership Statements for further explanation of this practice.)
When the Hamas terrorist attacks occurred the weekend of October 7, the university mobilized its leadership and staff to address health, safety and well-being concerns beginning that same weekend, and these efforts continue on a daily basis. Our Shared Values call us to put people at the center of all that we do through care and compassion. Ohio State has been focused on reaching out to and supporting members of our university community in these deeply troubling times. We recognize that this is affecting a wide range of individuals and groups across the university and community. The university will continue to focus on taking actions that enhance the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.
These actions include reaching out through a variety of channels to potentially impacted students, faculty, staff, alumni and community organizations and providing direct support and information about resources to these individuals and organizations. University leaders and specialized staff have also met with students and attended a variety of student events and planning meetings to offer support, and continue to work with students to enhance safety and security efforts.
Both on campus and off, police and security are working together to add a visible presence. This includes joint patrol, a combination of university police and the Columbus Division of Police, as well as Buckeye Block Watch security. The university’s Department of Public Safety also utilizes mobile cameras and other technology which is deployed in accordance with crime or safety concerns. The university will continue to adjust our safety enhancements as needed.
President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. addressed safety, security and his expectations for civil discourse at Ohio State in his first letter to the university community on Jan. 8, 2024:
I also understand that my tenure at Ohio State begins at a time of great challenge and uncertainty around the world, across our nation and throughout the higher-education landscape. Let me be clear: Our university is a place at which safety will not be compromised. I am committed to continually exploring ways in which we can enhance the safety and security of our community. We also will remain focused on creating an environment in which respect, civility and compassion are forefront while continuing Ohio State’s long-standing commitment to the First Amendment and upholding the laws of our state and country. This has been my expectation over the course of my 40 years in higher education and military service, and it will be my expectation as your president.
At the November 30, 2023, University Senate public meeting, Acting President Peter Mohler stated:
As we head into the final days of the semester, I hope all of you are excited about where the university is headed. We continue making strides in teaching, learning, service, and scholarship — and we continue helping each other do our best work, every day.
As hopeful as we are for the future, the present is still a challenge for too many. This is particularly true when we think about the conflict in the Middle East. It is heartbreaking to see the suffering, pain, and death impacting the Israeli and Palestinian people. And even with a pause in fighting, I know this remains a difficult time for many at Ohio State. As I shared with you last month, Ohio State’s actions since October 7 have been guided by our desire to place people at the center of all we do. Through our actions and words, we are encouraging an environment of respect and compassion during this extremely challenging time. We are supporting all members of our university community. And we are working to ensure they feel safe, seen, and heard.
To date, Ohio State has not experienced the volume of violence and unrest that has occurred at other colleges and universities. That is a credit to our community. We have seen strong, conflicting views expressed on our campuses. And we will continue supporting the ability to express these views. But at the same time, we must balance the right to speak freely with the civility and respect at the core of our Shared Values. There is no place for threats, discrimination, or harassment on our campuses. And as I have shared repeatedly, we will not tolerate violations of the law or university policy. During times like these, it’s easy to focus on our differences. But it’s worth remembering that we are all part of The Ohio State University. This is a place where people come together to do big things. And when we work in unison, few institutions can match what Ohio State can do. So, even when our differences seem the greatest, we should never forget our ability to rise above them in service to something greater.
At the November 16, 2023, Board of Trustees public meeting, Acting President Mohler stated:
Serving as acting president has made the past three months some of the best of my time at Ohio State. I thank you for this opportunity. I’ve had the chance to connect with so many Buckeyes and see our impact from a new perspective. And, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the impact of this university. We’re a great place doing important work because of our people. Driven by our Shared Values, we’re putting each other and those we serve at the center of all we do.
That people-centered approach has been foundational as we support our community in response to the Israel-Hamas War. As we all know, this has been a difficult period in the world, in the nation, and in our community. Since Ohio State first condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas on the weekend of October 7, we have been focused on supporting members of our university community. Through our actions and words, we are encouraging an environment of respect and compassion during this extremely difficult time. University leaders and staff continue to proactively reach out to potentially impacted students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community organizations to provide direct support and connect them with resources. We are engaging with student leaders and community organizations — and attending a variety of events and planning meetings — to listen and offer support. And we are working with local and state partners to provide a more visible police and security presence, both on and off campus.
As I communicated to our students, faculty, and staff last week — we will not tolerate violations of the law or university policy. This includes antisemitism, bigotry, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and violence. We have not, and will not, tolerate the intimidation or harassment of anyone based on their religious beliefs, nationality, or identity. And, if and when these acts occur, we will hold the perpetrators accountable. I also want to further address the two horrible incidents that occurred just off campus late last week. As I shared with our community at the time, Ohio State committed every available resource to assisting the Columbus Division of Police with these investigations. While this does not lessen the impact of what happened, I think it’s important to note, and for our community to hear that, in partnership with Columbus Police, we are able to confirm that the incident at Hillel was not perpetrated by students, faculty, or staff at Ohio State. And, while the student assault is still being actively investigated by outside law enforcement partners, the current information available suggests that the perpetrators are not our students.
To date, Ohio State has not experienced the volume of violence and unrest that has occurred at other colleges and universities. That is a credit to our community. We have seen strong, conflicting views expressed on our campuses. The university will continue supporting the ability to express these views — even if they are objectionable and do not align with our values. This is our responsibility as a university and our obligation under both state law and the U.S. Constitution. While we balance speaking freely with the civility and respect inherent to our Shared Values, we have been clear that there is no place for threats, discrimination, or harassment on our campuses. The university will continue working to support all members of our community because we know war in the Middle East is taking a terrible toll on our students, faculty, and staff as we continue to see the suffering, pain and death impacting the region.
During times like this, it’s easy to focus on our differences. But it’s important to remember that all of us are part of The Ohio State University – a place for people to come together – even and especially when our differences seem the greatest. We know everything we accomplish means more, and does more, when we accomplish it together.
At the November 16, 2023, Board of Trustees public meeting, Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, chair, stated:
Thank you for that excellent report, Dr. Mohler. On behalf of the board, I want to express how much we appreciate your steady leadership during this time. I would also like to return to our work related to the war in the Middle East. This is a very difficult time. The board recognizes that you and your team have worked tirelessly to support all of Ohio State’s students, faculty, and staff — as well as the student and community organizations they depend on.
You have focused on taking meaningful action in a timely manner. You have clearly communicated those actions, including enhanced safety and security on campus. And most importantly, you and your very capable team have spent countless hours meeting with students, parents, and community leaders to listen and provide support. The board wants you to know that we support you and your administration in taking these actions. We appreciate the heartfelt care and compassion you have shown to all members of the Ohio State community. And we will continue supporting this work. The Ohio State University Board of Trustees also joins you in very clearly and strongly condemning the terrorism of Hamas. We support your quick and consistent action following the attacks of October 7. We also reiterate — in the strongest terms — that Ohio State does not tolerate violations of the law or university policy. This includes, of course, antisemitism, bigotry, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and violence. The board and the university also do not tolerate hatred, intimidation, or harassment of anyone based on their religious beliefs, nationality, or identity. And we support you and your team in sharing this message with the community — and in taking the steps needed to enforce these policies.
Our focus on safety and supporting the Ohio State community is critical to creating an environment with zero tolerance for threats, discrimination, and harassment of any kind. Personal safety will always be a top priority of this university, and we applaud the additional investments made to enhance security on and near campus. Many of the measures you have put in place — such as additional lights, cameras, license plate readers, and consulting with stakeholders — have helped make this campus safer during the last few weeks. We especially appreciate the talent of our first responders. I believe — and this board is unanimous in its agreement — that you are taking the right steps at the right time. I emphasize here that every member of the board is in alignment on these points.
We now call on you to also take a bold step forward to make Ohio State a leader and convener in addressing crime and its causes over the long-term. This means bringing together government leaders, civic groups, law enforcement, and others across the city, region, and state. It means building on long-time partnerships — and forging new ones. Everyone deserves to feel and be safe — on every campus and in every community. But I believe firmly that without additional engagement from a variety of partners, we cannot achieve this goal. I have had many conversations with leaders around the state — including Governor DeWine — and I know Dr. Mohler and members of the administration are continually engaging with leaders in Columbus. We are all committed to community safety as a mutual priority in our state, region, and at our institution. Crime and what leads to it is a complex issue. But Ohio State can address it in a way few other institutions can. With our university’s broad expertise and many connections, I have no doubt that we can make a meaningful difference.
At the October 26, 2023, University Senate public meeting, Acting President Mohler stated:
“Work like this is driven by our Shared Values and our commitment to placing people at the center of everything we do. This also means that we closely follow how developments across the world affect our Ohio State community. This includes the shocking terrorist attacks in Israel earlier this month. I want to be very clear: As an institution, we strongly condemn all terrorist groups and terrorist attacks, including those perpetrated by Hamas on Israeli civilians, Americans and others the weekend of October 7, 2023.
During times of difficulty, Ohio State’s response is always to focus on the people in our community and directly support those who may be impacted. In this case, these actions included proactively reaching out to potentially impacted students, faculty, staff, alumni and community organizations — and providing support and information about resources. For the last three weeks, university leaders and staff have been meeting with student leaders and community organizations, and attending a variety of student events and planning meetings to offer support. The university is also enhancing safety and security efforts.
Another point that I want to be very clear about is that Ohio State has never – and will never – tolerate discrimination or harassment. As a public institution, Ohio State strongly supports everyone’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression – and we are also required by law to do so. That does mean that views may be expressed that are highly objectionable and do not align with our values. This is a deeply troubling time, and I am calling on our entire community to remember to have care and compassion for one another. I also want to remind everyone that if you do witness or have knowledge of instances of discrimination or harassment involving a member of the Ohio State community, it’s not just the right thing to report it – you have an obligation to report it to the university’s Office of Institutional Equity or to the Ohio State University Police Division if it is a crime or safety threat. Reporting not only allows the university to provide impacted individuals with support, but also allows us to respond to these incidents, to identify patterns and to continue to enhance safety and security for our community.
More about the university’s immediate and ongoing response — as well as the institution’s condemnation of terrorism — is available on and publicly linked from the front page of the university’s main website at osu.edu. Ohio State will continue to support our students, faculty, staff, alumni, patients and visitors during this profoundly difficult time.”
Incidents of threats or harassment
Safety continues to be a top priority. If you feel unsafe, or if you receive a threat to your personal safety, report it to the Ohio State University Police Division by calling 9-1-1 in an emergency or 614-292-2121 for non-emergencies.
Threats and harassment toward any individual or group are never acceptable. If you are aware of this type of incident involving a campus community member, it is critically important to report it to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). OIE is available to students, faculty and staff who have experienced protected class discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct. Reporting not only allows the university to provide you with support, but also allows us to respond to these incidents, to identify patterns, and to continue to enhance safety and security for our community.
On October 23, 2023, Ohio State’s Mershon Center for International Security Studies hosted a webinar for undergraduate students with seven faculty experts to offer context on the current violence and tragedy in Israel and Gaza. The event was organized by the Mershon Center with the collaboration of the Department of History, the Melton Center for Jewish Studies, the Middle Eastern Studies Center, and the Department of Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures.
On October 25, 2023, the Office of Student Life’s Center for Belonging and Social Change hosted an educational workshop titled Unpacking Antisemitism: Ethno-Religious Discrimination. While explaining what it means that Jewish identity is an ethno-religion, the workshop helped define what antisemitism is and traced it through history. In particular, the workshop discussed the experiences of Jewish students at Ohio State and provided suggestions for Buckeyes to help combat antisemitism.
In a webinar on November 15, 2023, Professor Peter L. Hahn analyzed the complicated situation in Gaza in its historical and contemporary contexts, focusing on the American role and aiming to bring clarity and balanced perspective about this difficult and dangerous moment in the Middle East.
If you are looking for support, please use the resources that Ohio State has to offer.
Students who need assistance or emotional support should reach out to the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service. Students can also access the support and resources provided by the Student Wellness Center, the Student Advocacy Center, the Center for Belonging and Social Change and the Office of International Affairs. Faculty or staff in need of assistance can contact Ohio State’s Employee Assistance Program. The Office of Institutional Equity is also available to students, faculty and staff who have experienced protected class discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct, and the Wexner Medical Center offers the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program.
Freedom of Expression
Ohio State is committed to ensuring freedom of speech and expression on our campus. Beyond this commitment, as a public institution, Ohio State is required to follow the First Amendment and Ohio law, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of expression. That does mean that views may be expressed that are highly objectionable and do not align with our values and can be very distressing to hear. Students, faculty and staff members acting in their individual capacities and not on behalf of the institution are all equally protected by these laws.
The university actively monitors demonstrations and – while the law requires a high bar for this – Ohio State will step in if it determines any speech or expression is crossing into, for example, direct threats to an individual and will continue to address conduct that violates university policies or the law. (For more information about Freedom of Expression, see Key Issues entry.)
Updated: January 22, 2024