Nazi and White Supremacist Symbols Found in Reed College Library

The following story contains explicit descriptions of hate symbols. Reader discretion is advised.

On the afternoon of Friday, November 3, VP for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black confirmed in a campus-wide email that the hateful graffiti addressed by college administration in their October 30 email to the Reed community consisted of a Nazi swastika followed by the numbers 1488, a code which — according to the Anti-Defamation League’s database of known hate symbols — serves as “a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. The first symbol is 14, which is shorthand for the ‘14 Words’ slogan: ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’ The second is 88, which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’ (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet).” While “graffiti targeting the Jewish community” had been addressed in the October 30 email, the details of the vandalism had not previously been known.

The two symbols, especially seen together, are a potent combination of virulent hate. The ADL calls the swastika and its evocation of the Holocaust “the most significant and notorious of hate symbols, anti-Semitism and white supremacy for most of the world outside of Asia.” Furthermore, the ADL states that “together, the numbers [1488] form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs. As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement – as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses, such as” To combine the two symbols is to directly evoke the shadow of the Holocaust and to express support for the most extreme forms of antisemitism, white supremacy, and fascism.

According to Dr. McConell-Black, a Reed student encountered the hateful graffiti in a third-floor library bathroom on the afternoon of Friday, October 27, and reported it to Community Safety. The Quest has independently confirmed that this account aligns with last week’s community safety blotter, which describes a student arriving at 28 West to report “anti-Semitic graffiti” that afternoon (case #230385). 

In their joint email to the campus community on October 30, Reed President Audrey Bilger, VP for Institutional Diversity Phyllis Esposito, VP for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black, and Dean of the Faculty Kathryn Oleson said “We unequivocally condemn the act of hateful vandalism and graffiti and fully acknowledge the harm it has caused. Such actions have no place in our community, and we stand united in denouncing them.”

The October 30 email continued that “in the event of hate incidents targeting individuals from protected classes — which encompass race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, or disability — the college will promptly report such incidents to local law enforcement and the Department of Justice, providing any relevant identifying information about the individuals involved,” although the Quest has not yet been able to independently confirm whether this incident was reported to law enforcement or to which branch of law enforcement. The paper has filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the relevant records with both the Portland Police Bureau and the Department of Justice, but may not receive a response for several weeks.

The hate symbols found on Reed’s campus come amid a rising wave of antisemitism at university campuses across the United States. On October 21, American University reported the discovery of swastikas and Nazi slogans graffitied onto the doors of dorms belonging to two Jewish students, as well as a nearby bathroom. On October 25, one attendee of a protest at New York University displayed a sign calling for the world to be “kept clean” of Jewish people. On October 31, The Cornell Daily Sun reported that the university’s Center for Jewish Living was under guard by campus police after a student posted several threatening online messages including “I will bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig Jews [sic].” A Cornell junior has since been arrested for those threats. These are only a few of the anti-Semitic campus incidents the Quest has compiled through a survey of recent news articles.

If you believe that you or someone you know has been the target of a hate incident, immediately contact Community Safety at 503-517-5355 or in person at 28 West. If you have information about a hate or bias incident or encounter hate symbols on campus, immediately report them to Community Safety and to the VP For Institutional Diversity Phyllis Esposito ( 

This is a developing story and the Quest will continue to cover it in the coming days.

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