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E-mail to Friends and Family:

April 24, 2008

After a series of missteps and an awful meeting with UND’s President Charles Kupchella this afternoon, I drafted this e-mail to friends and family with an update about the ongoing situation regarding hate crimes at UND. I have copied and pasted the text of the message here so those of you that RSS my blog can take similar action if you feel so inclined. The letter can be found below.

Hello friends and family,

Some of you may be familiar with a developing situation at the University of North Dakota, where I am a student. Two fellow Jewish students here on campus have been on the receiving end of several anti-Semitic occurrences, which have included swastikas drawn in their dormitories, verbal threats, and other acts of intimidation. The students in question up to this point have followed the proper procedure in reporting these actions to the authorities (both police and university). As of this time, however, neither group has officially classified these actions or come out and admitted that they are hate crimes. As a matter of fact, the Director of Housing Services went so far as to tell the victims, their families, the Jewish Student Organization and our faculty advisor that this was “just a personal matter between former friends” and not a hate crime. For more information, please check out the Grand Forks Herald’s Website (http://www.grandforksherald.com) or the Dakota Student (http://www.dakotastudent.com).

The Jewish Student Organization (of which I am a part) has come out with a statement in support of our brethren, which was used to begin a dialogue with the local and regional press. As of this afternoon, every major news channel in the city and the Grand Forks Herald have reported on the issue. Tomorrow afternoon, another student and I will be guests on Talk of Dakota, a talk radio show on KNOX 1310. Even with the increased media attention, UND President Charles Kupchella and other administrators at the school still refuse to classify these actions as hate crimes.

I had the opportunity to meet with President Kupchella this afternoon and was incredibly disappointed with its results. After admitting that he had known about these crimes for quite some time, he acknowledged that nothing had been done on his or any other administrator’s part other than drafting a public statement. There was a lot of emphasis on his part stating that these aren’t considered by him to be hate crimes until perpetrators are found and convicted. This assertion flies in the face of everything I know about diversity and the ADL’s definition of what a hate crime is. He even went so far as to say that he didn’t think the drawings looked like swastikas and would not refer to them as such for the rest of the meeting.

I left the President’s Office today dejected, angry and with a distinct lack-of-faith in the leadership of the University of North Dakota. I know now how the hundreds of Native American students on campus feel when their concerns about our “respectful” Fighting Sioux” logo are played down by the President and others in the administration.

The media attention has made great strides in getting the university to act on this issue. Many citizens in the city have come out through various means in support of the victims and Jewish citizens of UND. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has gone far enough to make the administration feel enough pressure to make permanent change possible. That is why I’m writing to you tonight.

I know that everyone out there has different feelings about anti-Semitism and racism in their own communities and may be empowered differently by the ongoing situation here in Grand Forks. If this situation stirs any of you, I’d like to encourage you to make your feelings known to the administration of the University of North Dakota. It is important that they realize their denial has an effect on Jews and everyone in general across the country.

  • UND’s President, Charles Kupchella, can be reached via e-mail at c_kupchella@mail.und.nodak.edu. His office phone number is (701) 777-2122.
  • UND’s Vice President for Student & Outreach Services, Bob Boyd, can be reached via e-mail at robert.boyd@mail.und.nodak.edu. His telephone number is (701) 777-2724
  • UND’s Dean of Students, Lillian Elsinga, can be reached via e-mail at lillianelsinga@mail.und.edu. Her telephone number is (701) 777-2664.
  • UND’s Provost, Greg Weisenstein can be reached via e-mail at gweisenstein@mail.und.edu.  His telephone number is (701) 777-2167.

In addition, I have also attached a press kit that contains cell phone pictures of some of the drawings and e-mails between the JSO advisor and the Director of Housing. It also contains statements from UND’s Jewish Student Organization and our advisor Professor Jack Weinstein. Please feel free to forward this kit and this e-mail on to anyone you feel might be interested or affected by what is occurring here. KNOX Radio will be streaming Talk of Dakota online tomorrow at http://www.knoxradio.com. Pending any unforeseen changes, we will be on at 3PM Central Time.

I am incredibly thankful for the wide support system I have here in Grand Forks, in Denver and around the country. My strength in dealing with this and ensuring that good comes of this lies in the fact that you all are willing to read this incredibly long e-mail and show your support as well. I hope things are well with each and every one of you. If you have any questions or comments, my cell phone is always on, and checking my e-mail has become a once-every-five-minute routine for the past few days..

Regards,

Martin

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2008 4:23 am

    You never told me you had a blog. I’m in the Amsterdam airport reading all the news I missed when I was on the plane, and it feels like UND is falling apart. Ugh.

    And to all the readers, Martin has been AMAZING since the JSO decided to go public to put pressure on the administration. You should all be very proud of him.

  2. Stacey Singer permalink
    May 20, 2008 9:53 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Are you from Denver? I am a former Grand Forks native who is also Jewish. Through my niece, Amanda Kosior, I have been following this story with a great deal of interest and a sinking sense of deja vu. In fact, today I contacted UND to express my anger and disgust with the university’s poor reaction to the problems on campus. If you want to discuss it by phone, you can call me on my cell (303) 667-9200. I don’t want to discuss in writing my conversation with the university, but I think you’ll like the news I have for you.

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