(An estimated 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)
The students who received the bag from a College Republican after the meeting that night were not members of the group. The university said Friday that the person responsible for actually producing the card was not a student and that the members of Republican group “were unaware of the card” when the bag containing it was handed out.
“The grossly offensive action of one individual, a nonstudent, has deeply distressed our campus community and others across the nation,” CMU President George Ross said in a statement. “With heavy hearts and great embarrassment, we apologize. To those of Jewish descent, rest assured that we stand with you and vow to continue the effort to educate others.”
Damon Brown, director of student activities and involvement at CMU, said in the statement that members of the Republican student group were “shocked and remorseful.”
The student group said in a statement Wednesday that it was not responsible anti-Semitic card.
At tonight’s College Republicans meeting, we had a Valentine’s Day party, in which each member decorated a bag and other members placed valentines inside of others’ bags. Unfortunately, a very inappropriate card was placed into a bag without other members’ knowledge. A bag was then given away to students sitting in Anspach [Hall], once again without members’ knowledge of its contents. The College Republicans as an organization did not distribute this valentine. We in no way condone this type of rhetoric or anti-Semitism. We apologize for any offense and want students to know that we do not tolerate this sort of behavior.
An image of the card was apparently shared on social media, igniting outrage across the campus, according to Central Michigan Life. (School administrators said they were investigating whether the photo is legitimate.)
Ross said campus leaders met Thursday morning “to review the situation and determine next steps.”
“This is not who we are as a campus community,” he said in a statement. “Such hurtful, offensive language, while protected by the First Amendment, is unacceptable and is not consistent with our values and standards.”
The university in Mount Pleasant, Mich., reported an enrollment of about 19,000 students in the fall. It’s unclear what percentage of the student population is Jewish.
Cindy Hughey, executive director of the Hillel Jewish Student Center at the university, said the Jewish community on campus is “deeply concerned and disappointed that students would use anti-Semitic rhetoric and references to the Holocaust in a joking manner.”
“We find these references … trivialize an incredibly dark period in history when more than 6 million Jews perished,” she said in a statement. Hughey said that the CMU Hillel appreciates the strong response from the university’s president and is working with the administration during the investigation into the incident.
Student activists from Central Michigan Action hosted an anti-hate-speech rally Thursday. “Central Michigan Action is taking a stand and refusing to let this hate go unanswered,” organizers wrote on Facebook. “We will reaffirm that CMU is a welcoming place for all with a peaceful demonstration and rally. Some people will be talking about their experiences with hate speech.”
Since Wednesday’s incident, people have expressed concerns on Facebook, where a user had posted a photo of the card.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day was only a couple weeks ago,” one commenter wrote. “Not only is this in bad taste, but from a prominent political group on campus, I would expect they would have better judgment. Meme or not, this is over the line to distribute to someone.”
Another wrote: “No matter what your political stance is (this is coming from a conservative), this is sick and unacceptable. I am disgusted at how a group that is supposed to be representing the same views I hold could say something so offensive and not see an issue with it. Absolutely ashamed.”
“Hey I agree this is crude, but don’t group all Republicans together based on this stupid person,” one person added. “This person obviously is on the far end of the spectrum. I don’t find this to be funny and I’m a Republican. Thanks.”
“Whether it’s offensive to you or not (which it should be but I guess that’s not the point), it was stupid,” another wrote. “Plain and simple. They should realize their actions have consequences, and just because they didn’t “mean” for it to be offensive doesn’t make it cool.”
This story has been updated.