Officials at the University of Maryland are putting together a seven-member panel on anti-Semitism following the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents on the 30,000-student College Park campus. Three members from the administration have already been appointed; two faculty members and two student representatives will join them this week.
William E. Kirwan, acting chancellor, said yesterday that he proposed the panel's creation after someone spray-painted the initials of the Ku Klux Klan on the door of the university's monthly Jewish newspaper last Thursday.
"This kind of incident is upsetting whenever it occurs," he said. "We want to show our concern and reassure the victims that we are trying to prevent an event like this from happening again."
Last May, after a student yelled "Heil Hitler!" and fired a BB-gun at a student, injuring her leg, an underground mimeographed university newspaper praised the act in an issue filled with obscene anti-Semitic epithets.
John Frisbee, the BB-gun aggressor, began serving his 250-hour commuted sentence last week, working for the campus B'nai B'rith chapter. Rabbi Robert Saks, who has been working with Frisbee, said yesterday he has found the youth "very helpful." While Frisbee's act was "malicious" and deserved punishment, he said, he has seen no conclusive evidence that Frisbee, 19, is a militant anti-Semite.
Whether this year's incidents constitute an unusual outbreak of racism at the university's College Park campus has been an issue of some debate. Robyn Small, editor of the Jewish publication HaKoach, called the initials that appeared on her office door simply "a poor joke."
After the BB-gun shooting, Gov. Harry Hughes considered the matter serious enough to merit a personal letter to university President John Toll.Hughes urged the university to set up better coordination between its public security officers and its human relations commission. At his suggestion, Yolanda Ford, the university's human relations officer, joined the governor's task force on violence and extremism. She will also serve on the university panel on anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Saks thinks the media have blown the incidents out of proportion. "We have to recognize that we're dealing with a whole undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the society," he said. "When you have a concentration of 30,000 people, essentially teen-agers, you're obviously going to see some of the general prejudices reflected."