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General Articles
The Oberlin College and anti-Semitism: The Latest Chapter

24.11.16

Editorial Note

Earlier this year (in March and AugustIAM reported on the case of Dr. Joy Karega of Oberlin College. Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, posted anti-Semitic messages on social media.  Following widespread protest, Karega was placed on a paid leave; subsequently, the Board of Trustees fired her.  The Board announced that it voted to dismiss Karega because she "violated the fundamental responsibilities of Oberlin faculty members – namely, adherence to the "Statement of Professional Ethics" of the American Association of University Professors." The Professional Ethics requires faculty members to "accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge" and to "practice intellectual honesty." The Board claimed that "Contrary to this obligation, Dr. Karega attacked her colleagues when they challenged inconsistencies in her description of the connection between her postings and her scholarship. She disclaimed all responsibility for her misconduct. And she continues to blame Oberlin and its faculty committees for undertaking a shared governance review process."

A few days later, on November 19, a case of anti-Semitism was reported to the police which some connect to the dismissal of Karega.  Benjamin Kuperman, an Oberlin College associate professor and chair of the computer science department, was awoken by noise outside his home about 3:25 a.m. He said he found smashed on the porch his decorative items and a note behind his mezuzah with letters glued that said “Gas, Jews, Die.”

The two cases may or may not be related, but certainly, as can be seen, anti-Semitism is ripe in Oberlin. But this is not first time. An earlier incident took place in 1996 when Kwame Ture, a former prime minister of the Black Panthers and founder of the pan-Africanist group, the All-African People's Revolutionary Party, visited Oberlin and caused a stir which lead to a large campus dialogue between supporters of Zionism and of proponents of a free Palestine. Ture talked about Zionism and the pan-African movement in an anti-Zionist speech that elicited the university to respond. 

Oberlin College received a lot of negative publicity because of the anti-Semitic incidents.  The Karega case, however may be just a beginning of a new chapter in Oberlin's troubles. She has threatened to bring legal action against her former employer.  It is safe to assume that Professor Karega would claim that her academic freedoms were violated by the college.   It would then be up to the courts to decide about the boundaries between anti-Semitic expressions and faculty freedom of expression.  IAM will report on this issue.



News Center
Board of Trustees Statement on Assistant Professor Joy Karega
by Communications Staff Nov. 16, 2016

The Oberlin College Board of Trustees, after extensive consideration and a comprehensive review of recommendations from multiple faculty committees and Oberlin President Marvin Krislov, has voted to dismiss Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition Joy D. Karega for failing to meet the academic standards that Oberlin requires of its faculty and failing to demonstrate intellectual honesty.

The dismissal is effective Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

As a Board, we agree with President Krislov and every faculty committee reviewing this matter that the central issues are Dr. Karega’s professional integrity and fitness. We affirm Oberlin’s historic and ongoing commitment to academic freedom.

During this process, which began with Dr. Karega’s posting of anti-Semitic writings on social media, Dr. Karega received numerous procedural protections: she was represented by counsel; she presented witness testimony, documents, and statements to support her position; and she had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses testifying against her.

The faculty review process examined whether Dr. Karega had violated the fundamental responsibilities of Oberlin faculty members – namely, adherence to the “Statement of Professional Ethics” of the American Association of University Professors, which requires faculty members to “accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge” and to “practice intellectual honesty.”

Contrary to this obligation, Dr. Karega attacked her colleagues when they challenged inconsistencies in her description of the connection between her postings and her scholarship. She disclaimed all responsibility for her misconduct. And she continues to blame Oberlin and its faculty committees for undertaking a shared governance review process.

For these reasons, the faculty review committees and President Krislov agreed on the seriousness of Dr. Karega’s misconduct. Indeed, the majority of the General Faculty Council, the executive body of Oberlin’s faculty, concluded that Dr. Karega’s postings could not be justified as part of her scholarship and had “irreparably impaired (her) ability to perform her duties as a scholar, a teacher, and a member of the community.”

In the face of Dr. Karega’s repeated refusal to acknowledge and remedy her misconduct, her continued presence undermines the mission and values of Oberlin’s academic community. Thus, any sanction short of dismissal is insufficient and the Board of Trustees is compelled to take this most serious action.

The Oberlin News Center is a service of the Oberlin College Office of Communications.

====================================================

 

Oberlin Ousts Professor
By Colleen Flaherty  November 16, 2016
 
Oberlin College has dismissed Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, following an investigation into anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements she made on social media -- including her assertion that ISIS is really an arm of Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies and that Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

The college initially affirmed Karega’s right to academic freedom when her inflammatory statements surfaced earlier this year, but placed her on leave in August, pending an investigation into her conduct. Beyond concerns about anti-Semitism, which fit into larger complaints about escalating anti-Jewish rhetoric on campus, Karega’s case has raised questions about whether academic freedom covers statements that have no basis in fact.

Oberlin’s Board of Trustees ultimately voted to dismiss Karega for “failing to meet the academic standards that Oberlin requires of its faculty and failing to demonstrate intellectual honesty,” the college said in a statement released late Tuesday. The vote followed “extensive consideration and a comprehensive review of recommendations from multiple faculty committees,” and from President Marvin Krislov.

Karega’s dismissal is effective immediately. Karega said via email on Wednesday morning that she intends to "challenge the college's decision and assault on my substantive rights through all the avenues I have available to me." She said that her Facebook posts were taken out of their original contexts and "grossly misrepresented" for political purposes.

"Since the publication of the posts, I have been inundated with hundreds of hatemail filled with slurs (racial, misogynist, classist), harassment and threats," she said. "To add insult to injury, for the last eight months, Oberlin has campaigned to implicate my professional fitness using arbitrary, inequitable and discriminatory practices. Indeed, the college launched an assault on my substantive rights."

Oberlin’s board said that the college’s commitment to academic freedom stands, and that the case against Karega came down to “professional integrity and fitness.” The college said Karega had received “numerous procedural protections” during her review, including representation by counsel; the ability to defend herself with witness testimony, documents and statements; and the opportunity to cross-examine those testifying against her.

“The faculty review process examined whether Karega had violated the fundamental responsibilities of Oberlin faculty members -- namely, adherence to the Statement of Professional Ethics of the American Association of University Professors, which requires faculty members to ‘accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge’ and to ‘practice intellectual honesty,’” reads Oberlin’s statement.

Contrary to this obligation, the college said, Karega “attacked her colleagues when they challenged inconsistencies in her description of the connection between her postings and her scholarship. She disclaimed all responsibility for her misconduct. And she continues to blame Oberlin and its faculty committees for undertaking a shared governance review process.”

Oberlin said the majority of the General Faculty Council, the faculty executive committee, concluded Karega’s Facebook posts “could not be justified as part of her scholarship and had ‘irreparably impaired [her] ability to perform her duties as a scholar, a teacher and a member of the community.’”

Due to Karega’s “repeated refusal to acknowledge and remedy her misconduct, her continued presence undermines the mission and values of Oberlin’s academic community,” the college said. So “any sanction short of dismissal is insufficient and the [board] is compelled to take this most serious action.”

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of AAUP’s “Academe” blog, said he was troubled by numerous aspects of Oberlin’s statement. Worst is what appears to be the college’s primary justification for firing Karega, he said -- that she “attacked her colleagues,” allegedly in violation AAUP’s policy statement on professional ethics.

“This seems like a gross misinterpretation of AAUP documents,” Wilson said, adding that the document is “an ideal for faculty, not a disciplinary rule for which anyone can fired if they are deemed to make a lapse in self-discipline.”

“Faculty should be free to criticize their colleagues, especially when they are being attacked,” Wilson said. “If Karega’s offensive social media comments did not justify her dismissal -- as Oberlin's statement implicitly admits -- her defense of her offensive comments cannot become the legitimate basis for a firing.”

At various points in 2014 and 2015, after she came to Oberlin, Karega wrote on her Facebook page that ISIS was really U.S. and Israeli intelligence personnel, and that they -- not terrorists -- had planned the attacks on the Paris offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. She said Israel had downed Malaysian Airlines flight No. 17 over Ukraine, and she voiced support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s declaration that Zionists and Israeli Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Karega also shared anti-Semitic images, such as a picture of the Jewish banking heir Jacob Rothschild with the words “We own your news, the media, your oil and your government.”

Some of Karega’s posts are several years old but they came to light last winter, amid other concerns about anti-Semitic attitudes at Oberlin. Karega's posts differ from more common anti-Israel sentiments expressed on college campuses, however, in that they link Israel to events in which there is a broad consensus that it played no role.

Oberlin initially backed Karega’s right to free speech while distancing itself from her comments, saying that it “respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views. Acknowledgment of this right does not signal institutional support for, or endorsement of, any specific position.” Krislov, the president, doubled down on the college’s position a few days later, saying that as a Jew, he was deeply hurt by statements like those Karega had made. But as an academic, he said, he believed deeply in free expression.

Yet Oberlin’s board soon announced that it had asked the college to look into Karega’s professional fitness. “These postings are anti-Semitic and abhorrent,” Clyde S. McGregor, chair of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, said in a March statement. “We deplore anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry. They have no place at Oberlin. These grave issues must be considered expeditiously.”

The majority of Oberlin’s faculty signed a statement in April condemning Karega’s statements as anti-Semitic. “Bigotry has no place on the Oberlin campus (or anywhere),” it says. “It sullies the values of equality and mutual support that are embedded in our institutional DNA as the first coeducational college and the first to admit students of all races as a matter of policy.”

Some of those professors who didn’t sign the statement spoke out, however, saying that feared Karega was being scapegoated for bigger problems with racism and anti-Semitism on campus.

Karega, who has enjoyed some public support from Oberlin students, said that her "heart goes out to Oberlin students who, throughout this controversy, have done what the governing bodies, administration and some faculty have failed to do. Oberlin's student body has approached this controversy employing fairness, respect for me as a faculty member, and a desire for critical inquiry and productive engagement. The Oberlin community doesn’t deserve this racist, arbitrary attack which has damaged the name and reputation of 'Oberlin.'"

 

=======================================================



Jewish Oberlin Professor’s House Vandalized After Firing of Anti-Semitic Faculty Member
by TheTower.org Staff | 11.21.16 5:42 pm
The home of a Jewish professor at Oberlin College was vandalized last Thursday, with a note saying “Gas Jew Die” left at the door, a few days after a professor at the college was fired for writing and sharing anti-Semitic posts on Facebook.

The professor was identified as Benjamin Kuperman, an associate professor of computer science. The threatening note, composed with cut-out letters from newspapers, was stuck under the mezuzah attached to the doorpost of the home. Furniture on the front porch was also damaged.

Oberlin Police Chief Juan Torres said that the incident will be investigated as a hate crime. College president Marvin Krislov condemned the incident as “a cowardly, hateful act” in an e-mail to students.

“As the General Faculty discussed yesterday, this is a moment of great stress and consternation, both nationally and locally,” Krislov wrote. “We will need each other’s continued compassion and support at this time; please take care of yourselves, your families, and your loved ones. As our community grieves for the loss of dignity and personal/physical safety that comes with these sorts of vile attacks, these events also can galvanize us in our resolve to fight bigotry and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.”

Questions about a possible culture of anti-Semitism at Oberlin have increased since The Tower first reported in February about the social media history of Joy Karega, who was dismissed by the college’s Board of Trustees last Tuesday.

Even before the Karega revelations, an alumni group, Alums for Campus Fairness, brought concerns about anti-Semitism on campus to Krislov’s attention, but received no response. Melissa Landa, president of the Oberlin chapter of the group, lamented the “persistent hostile campus atmosphere” at Oberlin that threatened to “compromise its legacy of academic rigor and social justice.”

The Daily Beast’s Emily Shire observed in April that the lack of decisive action taken by the school in the immediate aftermath of the report on Karega’s postings “was deafening to some, and especially disconcerting because the silence seemed disproportionately reserved to matters related to Judaism or Israel.”

Tablet magazine senior writer Yair Rosenberg also noted the following month that the experiences of Jewish students at Oberlin resulted from “a marriage of deliberate prejudice with empowered ignorance that has increasingly marginalized Jewish students and Jewish life on campus.” Rosenberg called on the administration to “forthrightly combat misinformed stereotypes about Jews, and to confront anti-Israel activism used as an excuse to intimidate and bully Jewish students.”



=====================================================


OBERLIN NEWS TRIBUNE
POSTED ON NOVEMBER 19, 2016 
Anti-Semitic note left on Jewish couple’s door, porch vandalized

By Evan Goodenow - egoodenow@civitasmedia.com

A Jewish couple have reported being victims of a hate crime here in Oberlin.

Benjamin Kuperman said he was awoken by noise outside his Eastern Avenue home about 3:25 a.m. Thursday, according to a police report. He said he found decorative seashells that he had left on his porch smashed and a note behind a mezuzah he had hung on his front door.

A mezuzah is a parchment with religious texts and a sign of the Jewish faith. The note had letters glued to it that said “Gas, Jews, Die.”

Elizabeth Kuperman, Ben Kuperman’s wife, told us Friday that she and her husband were shaken by the incident.

“We’re very saddened by it all,” she said. “When your last name is enough to damn you, it’s pretty rough.”

Elizabeth Kuperman said she’s unsure why they were targeted or whether it is related to their criticism of the election of Donald Trump. Kuperman was one of a few people quoted in a Nov. 10 article in an area daily newspaper expressing disappointment about the outcome in which the Republican Trump was elected despite Democrat Hillary Clinton receiving in excess of one million more votes.

On Nov. 11, the Kuperman’s held signs at the corner of College and Main streets saying “I Reject the President” and “Men Against Misogyny.” Trump, who has bragged on tape of groping women and referred to them as animals, pigs, and dogs in the past, was accused of misogyny during the campaign.

Benjamin Kuperman is an Oberlin College associate professor and chair of the computer science department. Elizabeth Kuperman said the college and the community have been very supportive.

In a Thursday email to faculty and students, Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov called the incident a “cowardly, hateful act” and urged them to contact Oberlin police or campus police if they are victims of hate crimes or feel unsafe.

“As our community grieves for the loss of dignity and personal/physical safety that comes with these sorts of vile attacks, these events also can galvanize us in our resolve to fight bigotry and hatred wherever and whenever they occur,” Krislov said.

Rabbi Shlomo Elkan, director of the Chabad Student Group, said he asked police to increase patrols near the Chabad Jewish Center for Orthodox Jewish students walking there to take part in the Sabbath.

“It’s hit home,” Elkan said of the incident. “(But) I also don’t think we need to be in a state of panic. Just a state of vigilance and make sure everyone stays safe.”

The incident comes during a flurry of hate crimes against black and Latino people, gays, immigrants, Jews, and Muslims since the election.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate group watchdog, said it collected information on 437 incidents around the nation between Nov. 9 and 14. The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Anita Gray, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League’s Cleveland branch, said swastikas have been found on Jewish homes in Cleveland and in downtown Cleveland since the election. Trump, in a “60 Minutes” interview Nov. 13, said he was saddened to hear about hate crimes since the election and called on those responsible for them to “stop it.”

Gray said the ADL is willing to work with Trump but said the president-elect’s remarks were hypocritical given his comments during the campaign and his actions afterward. Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration during the campaign, retweeted white supremacists, and said Mexico was sending drug dealers and rapists into the U.S.

“Once you let a genie out of the bottle, it’s hard to get the genie back in again,” Gray said. “He needs to do more than a ‘60 Minutes’ interview. He needs to make a declaration.”

Gray said the ADL is “deeply troubled” buy Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist. Bannon formerly ran Breitbart News, an anti-Semitic and white supremacist website.

Headlines have included calling conservative pundit Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.” Shortly after a self-proclaimed white supremacist who brandished the Confederate flag on Facebook was accused of murdering nine black people in a Charleston, S.C. church last year, Brietbart ran an article praising the flag. The headline said the flag, a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, and Jim Crow discrimination, “proclaims a glorious heritage.”

Gray and Julia Shearson, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations Ohio branch, called for the FBI to assist Oberlin police in investigating the incident. Police chief Juan Torres said his officers plan to notify the FBI about the incident.

Shearson said there have been a couple of incidents reported to her group regarding Muslims in the Cleveland area being harassed since the election. She said the Oberlin incident confirms people’s worst fears about Trump’s victory empowering hate groups and individuals. It’s important that Muslims, Jews, and other minority groups show solidarity in condemning hate crimes, she said.

“I would consider an attack on a member of the Jewish community as an attack on a member of the Muslim community,” she said. “Both the Jewish community and the Muslim community are very vulnerable along with the African-American, Hispanic, and LGBT community.”

 

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