Temple concludes investigation of alleged anti-Semitic attack

Posted: August 30, 2014

Temple University has concluded its investigation of an altercation on campus last week in which a student said he was punched and called anti-Semitic names after a verbal exchange with students manning a table for a pro-Palestinian group.

The university will soon turn over its findings to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said.

It will be up to the district attorney to decide whether the incident constituted a hate crime and what, if any, charges may be filed, he said.

Temple officials have determined that a verbal conflict occurred and that one student struck another, according to the school's website.

The university's Office of Student Conduct also will review the findings, and a panel of faculty, staff, and students will make recommendations on what, if any, discipline should be meted out, the school said.

The confrontation took place Aug. 20 at Temple Fest, an event in which student groups set up tables to inform students about school activities. It was one of what some call a growing number of rifts on campuses between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students.

The altercation quickly attracted national attention, with advocacy groups calling on Temple to label the incident a hate crime.

Daniel Vessal, 21, of Philadelphia, said he was punched and called names, but members of Students for Justice in Palestine, the student group, say he was "slapped" by an acquaintance of the group and not a member. The group said Vessal was hit after he called the female members of the group staffing the table "terrorists" and said, "I can't believe this exists."

On the website, the university also addressed a controversy that arose in the spring after Alessio Lerro, an adjunct professor, questioned the death toll in the Holocaust on a Modern Language Association website and on his private Facebook page. Lerro no longer works for Temple, Betzner said.

"It is Temple University's position that the ample historical evidence, scholarship, and research regarding the horrific impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people is a strong counterpoint to Mr. Lerro's statements," the university said, noting, "Mr. Lerro's opinion is solely his own and not that of Temple University."

Lerro could not be reached for comment.


ssnyder@phillynews.com

215-854-4693 @ssnyderinq

www.inquirer.com/campusinq

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