With more anti-Semitic graffiti found on and around the University of Wisconsin campus, community leaders are emphasizing the need for a campus culture change.

According to police and witness reports, at least nine instances of graffiti featuring the Wolfsangel, a symbol of the Nazi party, have been found in various locations on and off UW campus.

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The UW Police Department and the Madison Police Department are working together to investigate the graffiti incidents and find the perpetrator.

There have been four new instances of graffiti with the same symbol identified since The Badger Herald last reported on the anti-Semitic graffiti. One was found on the back of Agriculture Hall, another outside of Walgreens on East Campus Mall and another near the Campus Village Apartments on Mills Street. UWPD is also investigating anti-Semitic graffiti found on a rock near Picnic Point, Marc Lovicott, UWPD spokesperson, said.

Wolfsangel symbol found at Walgreens on East Campus Mall
Alice Vagun/The Badger Herald

Wolfsangel symbol found near Campus Village Apartments
Photo courtesy of Allison Chang 

In addition to the new reports, another piece of graffiti was located in the Greek life community adjacent to the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. This may be one of the three graffiti tags initially found in the Greek life community, but officials have not yet confirmed. 

Wolfsangel symbol found near Alpha Epsilon Phi
Emily Hamer/The Badger Herald

Five instances of graffiti had previously been found, three in UW’s Greek life community, one on the University Bookstore and one near Engineering Hall. The graffiti found on the west wall of the University Bookstore and near Engineering Hall have both been removed.

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The Wolfsangel was adopted by far right Nazi organizations in the early 20th century, including some pro-Nazi groups, Amos Bitzan, UW history professor and expert on Jewish history, said. The symbol is still used by far right groups, including the Aryan nation, a white supremacist religious organization. Bitzan said he and many others on campus are alarmed by the intolerable graffiti.

“I think this is a concern for UW,” Bitzan said. “Wolfsangel is clearly being used as an anti-Semitic symbol for racist attacks against Jewish people and institutions on campus.”

Greg Steinberger, executive director of UW-Hillel, said the instances follow a trend of hateful, angry and aggressive activity happening both on campus and nationwide. He said this contributes to a hostile campus environment that discourages diversity.

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Using anti-Semitic symbols in graffiti is unacceptable, John Lucas, UW spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

“Graffiti making use of white supremacist symbols is unacceptable in our community,” Lucas said. “UWPD and MPD are investigating these instances and we hope they’ll learn who is responsible.”

MPD Chief Mike Koval said in a press conference he doesn’t want to publicize where MPD is in the investigation because he doesn’t want to throw off the culprit or encourage people to copy the perpetrator.

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Koval said the symbols follow a heightened sense of “hateful rhetoric” around UW’s campus. MPD detectives and officers with training in hate crimes and bias incidents have been sent to investigate, Koval said.

Lovicott said he finds the anti-Semitic graffiti and other instances of hate and bias on campus “troubling.”

“This is inappropriate. For one, it’s illegal … but the hateful undertone of this graffiti is really troubling,” Lovicott said. “It’s concerning to know there are people out there, or someone out there, who is spreading this.”

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Since the same images and the same color paint are being used in multiple locations, Lovicott said it’s possible all the instances of anti-Semitic graffiti are related, but UWPD won’t know until the investigation is complete. Lovicott said UWPD has some leads and is making progress.

Steinberger said it’s important for the UW community, staff, faculty and students to come together and talk about changing UW’s campus climate for the better. He said UW needs to work on making education, resources and penalties more effective.

“Has enough been done? No. Is there a simple solution? No,” Steinberger said. “I don’t think that things will change overnight … I think as these many weeks or months have gone on, we are seeing people try to lean in to make a difference.”

If someone sees an instance of graffiti on campus they are encouraged to report it to UWPD dispatch at (608) 264-2677 or as a hate and bias incident.

If the case is off campus, it can be reported to MPD and to the city for removal. Anyone with more information about the graffiti is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014. If someone sees graffiti happening in progress they should call 911.

Teymour Tomsyck contributed reporting to this article.