MCLA (copy)

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has removed a swastika discovered Wednesday on a piece of furniture.

NORTH ADAMS — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has removed a swastika found carved into a piece of furniture on campus. 

A student informed President James Birge about the symbol Wednesday morning, according to an email Birge sent to college community members. The symbol was found in the campus center marketplace, according to the email.

"The swastika is a symbol of violence, hate, intimidation, and bias," Birge wrote. "There is no place for symbols or words that espouse these actions at MCLA. Although we are a Nation that values free speech, speech that incites or promotes hate and violence against anyone goes beyond the concept of that freedom. Free speech is a responsibility as much as a right; we must choose our words carefully and look hard at our well-worn beliefs and biases." 

Facility staff removed the symbol and public safety officers from the college are investigating the incident, Birge said. He referred the student who reported the symbol to the Counseling Center for support, he wrote.

The discovery came just ahead of the start of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, at sundown Wednesday. It also took place during a week of "observance of the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust" in the U.S.

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Anyone at MCLA who has experienced discrimination or harassment pursuant to the school's Equal Opportunity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Plan and/or the Student Code of Conduct may file a complaint report, Birge wrote. 

Chris MacDonald-Dennis, the college's chief diversity officer, and Kate Gigliotti, senior director of constituent engagement, will host a community support space for Jewish members of the community and those of Jewish heritage. 

"I will remind you, there is no room on our campus for any kind of hateful rhetoric or action," Birge wrote. "Even as we have shifted to remote learning, we remain committed to creating a campus community that is safe for all and will continue to support each other. As always, messages of hate and vitriolic actions against anyone will not be tolerated at MCLA."

The college ended in-person learning last week, and most students are required to leave residence halls by Sunday.

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 510-207-2535.