College campus (stock image)
College campus (stock image)iStock

University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) officials condemned antisemitic messages that were found scrawled on campus sidewalks on Wednesday, the first day of the fall semester.

Administrators said in a statement on the university’s website on Thursday that the messages written in chalk called Jewish student groups “racist” and “genocidal,” and accused them of “having blood on their hands.”

While officials urged “civility and kindness” they said in the statement that the messages were not against university free speech policy.

Vice Chancellor Lori Reesor and Deputy Vice Chancellor LaVar Charleston, the university’s chief diversity officer, said that nonetheless the messages “violate our norms and actively work against the culture of belonging for which we are striving,” reported.

“To those Jewish students and others affected, we are sorry for the impact this had on your first day of class at UW,” the statement said. “We truly strive to create a campus where every student feels they belong, and this kind of messaging harms that goal and aspiration.”

The administrators said that the messages did not violate any campus policies because they were allowable under free speech which “can be difficult and uncomfortable at times.”

“Just because something isn’t prohibited doesn’t make it a good idea,” they added. “We hope you hear our calls for civility and kindness while at the same time, embracing vigorous, honest debate.”

The president of UW Hillel, Greg Steinberger, described the statements, which were found in seven places across campus, as a “frightening and painful way to start the year.”

Steinberger urged officials to investigate the targeting of Jewish students and Jewish organizations on campus.