Dear Editor,

My name is Andrew Elberson and I currently have the privilege of serving as the president of the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) on campus. I am writing you regarding the anti-vaccine mandate protest that occurred on campus Oct. 26. I would like to express the feelings felt by students of the organization I represent, my personal feelings as a German national, as well as the many other students that do not have the privilege of having their voice heard through representation. In this letter, I do not want to express an opinion on the implementation of vaccine mandates, nor the politics or regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic itself. I would like to directly address the methods used by the protesters to display their message and the symbolism used with it.

As publicly seen, many of the signs displayed by the protesters, either by holding them or by posting them on the university's campus, represented an association of federal and university officials with the national-socialist symbol of the swastika, used by Nazi Germany during its regime. This regime oversaw the systematic killing of approximately six million people of the Jewish faith, as well as countless other victims viewed as enemies of the state. The swastika represents the conviction of anti-Semitism, either through discrimination, genocide or simple hate of Judaism and general political difference. Simply put, this symbol has left a scar on the personal lives, history and culture of various individuals over the last 90 years.

As a representative of an organization that speaks for individuals from around the world, I cannot stand by and accept the public display of a hate symbol on a public university campus by its staff and students. Mississippi State University is proud to accept individuals of all faiths and backgrounds and has taken great strides in promoting the inclusion of underrepresented and minority students. Nonetheless, the public display of a hate symbol is derogatory and intimidating to the students of the university and the local population of Starkville.

As a German national who has personally been educated on and has visited the sites of the before mentioned atrocities, I believe this display shows the ignorance of certain individuals regarding this topic and overall trivializes the issues that still occur in our society. I understand that individuals have a right to express their opinion on their beliefs and I also understand that this protest does not speak for the university itself. Regardless of this, this display, allowed or not, exemplifies what still needs to be done for the inclusion of all and should not be allowed on campus. I ask these involved individuals to educate themselves about this symbolism and think about which impact it has. I also ask the university to address this display and take it as serious as other recent incidents on campus.

Overall, I hope we can make the right choices moving forward.

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