Lawyer: Dickinson student’s anti-Semitic remarks “clearly satirical”

Carlisle/West Shore

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — A Dickinson College student is facing backlash from the community and an investigation from the school for anti-Semitic comments he made in a video.

In the video, he is heard listing reasons why the Holocaust was a “good thing,” referencing made up stats like “96 percent of Germans say the Holocaust made their lives a lot more positive.”

It’s shocking, but his lawyer, who is Jewish herself, said it is also clearly satirical.

“We are now living in a climate where we are all judged based on our worst decisions, our dumbest decisions, our worst moments, sometimes when we are children,” said Samantha Harris, partner at Allen-Harris Law Firm.

In this case, the now 18-year-old Shane was a child. Harris said he recited the lines for a friend’s film project when he was 16.

“One of them is, ‘the Holocaust is a good thing because you can’t have racism if you only have one race,’ I mean…the target of the jokes were anti-Semites,” Harris said.

However, not everyone is laughing. Students who wanted to remain anonymous provided us this statement:

Making humor out of the Holocaust is anti-Semitic and reprehensible. The actions by the creator of this video are every bit intentional. Shane [redacted] appears for the camera dressed in a suit and performing clearly rehearsed “jokes” about the Holocaust. It is blatant that this video was meant to upset others under the guise of humor. Some consider the video posted as a threat towards the Jewish community here on campus. While it is not Shane’s first offense, it is the first we have on camera. It says a lot about his character that he felt comfortable showing his face, name, and school affiliation on a video recording without fear of repercussions. Shane has published numerous inflammatory columns under the Dickinsonian newspaper’s opinion section throughout his three years at Dickinson. This behavior is unacceptable and dangerous, and the actions in this video have created a lot of pain and fear among the Dickinson student body, particularly for the Jewish members of our campus community. Many students feel unsafe, and the response from the college has been entirely underwhelming. As Dickinson seniors, this is not our first time witnessing events like those seen in this video, and we are used to the lack-luster responses from the college administration. Shane’s anti-Semitic intentions should not be up for debate: his actions are clearly wrong, and both he and Dickinson administration need to be held accountable for the continuous distress they have caused for the Dickinson community.

Harris said that those arguments don’t hold up against free speech, particularly satire.

“There is this conflating of speech with violence. You know, the idea that somebody telling a joke or saying something that hurts someone’s feelings is actually tantamount to a threat to their safety. Such that, being in their presence someone — you know, that emotional safety and physical safety are the same thing and that we are all somehow entitled to emotional safety and comfort at all times,” Harris said.

Since the video was uploaded by an unknown source on YouTube in January, Harris said Shane has lost his job, had his home vandalized, and has been banned from participating in student projects by a professor.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that he’s an outspoken conservative on campus and suddenly that this has been ousted to try to take him down,” Harris said.

Dickinson College told students it is thoroughly investigating, sending out this statement:

Earlier today, we were made aware of a hateful video that appeared to involve a Dickinson student. This video is not only harmful to our campus community but is an anti-Semitic act. Any act of bias undermines our Dickinson values.

As soon as we learned about this video, we took immediate action. The Bias Education Response Team (BERT) met and George Stroud, vice president of student life and dean of students, has reached out to the individual we believe to be involved. The college will be thoroughly investigating this matter and taking appropriate action in accordance with our policies and procedures.

In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 2,107 individual anti-Semitic incidents throughout the United States. This represents a 12 percent increase from 2018 and continues an unfortunate upward trend seen throughout the last several years. Hillel International also reports increased incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses in recent years.

We want to thank everyone who reported this matter to us. We take this very seriously and we remain committed to building a more just community.

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