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Information about incident reported as anti-Semitic (Aug. 29, 2012)

Sept. 27, 2012, update: The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office closed this case without filing charges after it determined a hate crime did not occur. The Tennen family attorney also requested the case be closed, thanking law enforcement officials for “conducting a full and fair investigation.”

Open letter to the Hillel Community from President Simon

Aug. 29, 2012

The University believes that anti-Semitic behavior is antithetical to the values that must underpin our community. Reports that an anti-Semitic incident  occurred in East Lansing not only affected the student involved but undermine the work we have done in partnership with Hillel and the Jewish community  to support our Jewish students.

As you may be aware, I learned of the incident on Sunday through a phone call from Trustee Owen. I immediately activated our institutional response network. I asked our university police liaison to contact you. Both Bill Beekman from my office and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank contacted the family to urge that the incident be reported to the East Lansing Police and to set in motion efforts to support the student.  I also alerted our Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, the on-campus entity responsible for monitoring incidents of bias and discrimination involving members of our community, as the incident was identified as resulting from bias. Since that time the relevant college dean, academic counselors within the undergraduate university division, the Counseling Center, and appropriate personnel within the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services have been put on notice and stand ready to assist the student.

Because the incident occurred off campus, it falls within the jurisdiction of the East Lansing Police Department.  They are investigating the incident and are keeping us informed through MSU's Chief of Police. On Tuesday, ELPD issued a news release saying its “…preliminary investigation into this past weekend’s reported assault indicates that it is not likely a hate crime” and that the suspect does not live in the area. While the ELPD has not concluded its investigation, that does not change MSU’s response to a student in need or our concerns about how early reports of the incident have had a negative impact on our community.

I share the above information to let you know what steps we have taken thus far. We will continue to work closely with Cindy Hughey, the Executive Director of Hillel, as well as other leaders within the Jewish community, to determine what additional steps would help the community feel more comfortable on campus.  We will also continue to share information with Ms. Hughey as more information regarding the circumstances of this unfortunate incident becomes available.

Violence within our community, for any reason, affects us all. We at MSU are dedicated to creating and engaging a community that is supportive of one another and that offers respect to all people. Our university works to make our community and campus a place worthy of the comfort and security that come with the word “home.”

Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

Letter to the Hillel Community from Executive Director Cindy Hughey

Dear Friends of MSU Hillel,

As you are all aware, an incident occurred last Saturday night regarding one of our Jewish students being assaulted at a house party off campus. Reports and stories have been circulating and we have been trying our best to respond to the situation in an appropriate and responsible manner. At this point in time, the East Lansing Police do not believe that this terrible incident was in fact a hate crime. Witnesses have identified a suspect, who is not an MSU student and lives in the Detroit area. This suspect is being sought by the police for questioning. The FBI and ADL have also been involved. The story that the student’s mouth was stapled shut has been confirmed untrue by Sparrow Hospital.

There are many conflicting stories and we are trying our best to support Zach, our students and community during this difficult time. I believe the East Lansing Police Department and the MSU Administration has been very responsive to Zach and his family and I could not be more pleased. We hope to hear more about the investigation in the next few days.

Thank you for your continued support of Hillel and our Jewish community at Michigan State University.

Cindy Hughey
Executive Director
Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center
Michigan State University
Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan

East Lansing Police Department Investigation

Here is a link to the Aug. 29 news release from the East Lansing Police Department.