WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — A group of Jewish students at the College of William & Mary tell 10 On Your Side that they feel targeted by other students after getting verbally assaulted on campus.
The altercation took place during a fundraising event on campus, during which Jewish students were raising money for humanitarian aid in Israel.
“We were approached quite aggressively by a bunch of people,” said Ori Ben-Ari, a W&M senior.
“They just came up called us ‘dirty Zionists,’ ‘colonizer,’ ‘pigs,’ ‘rapists,’ ‘murderers,’ ‘baby killers,’ you name it, we heard it,” he said.
“That was just a little bit discouraging on such a, what seems to be a welcoming campus,” Ben-Ari said.
The group did not report the action to the school, but parents who learned about it did reach out to the college.
Natasha Varnovitsky’s son is a sophomore at William & Mary. He told his mother about the group getting verbally assaulted.
“We have laws in this country, we are a country of laws,” Varnovitsky said. “There are laws against hate crime. There are there are laws against hate speech. They need to be enforced.”
Varnovitsky said she reached out to William & Mary after learning about what happened. She wanted to know what the school is doing to keep Jewish students safe.
She received a response from school President Katherine Rowe Tuesday afternoon. It said:
“On a matter as serious as this, I want to be unequivocally clear: harassment and antisemitism are flatly unacceptable. Such behavior is in stark contrast to William & Mary’s stated values and mission. Student safety on campus is our highest priority, and I encourage students to report incidents of bias at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is what we know at present: there was a verbal altercation between students during yesterday’s tabling event. Our staff and W&M Police were in contact with the students throughout the day to provide support. We have not received reports from anyone involved related to a physical altercation described in your message. When we receive reports of harassment, assault or threatening behavior, we take immediate action to support our students and their safety on this campus.
I know how deeply this week’s horrifying events have affected many of our students. W&M’s First Gentleman and I will attend tonight’s vigil to support our students, faculty and staff. Please encourage your son to reach out directly to the Dean of Students Office for additional support during this difficult time.
In a separate statement, the school told 10 On Your Side:
“We continue to provide support for our students, and safety on campus is our top priority. We encourage members of our community to consider how current events may personally and deeply affect others and to embrace our shared William & Mary values while engaging in debate around this international conflict.“