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GUEST OPINION: The Issue Of Antisemitism Goes Beyond A Single University President

 

In response to the testimonies of Harvard, MIT, and Penn presidents during the December 5th “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism” congressional hearing, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia issued the following statement:

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CNBNews graphic files

“The Congressional testimony of top university presidents and their attempts to clarify have been heard. We are not here to vilify. The universities must determine what is in their best interests. The universities must determine what's in their best interests. Let us be clear: the issue of antisemitism goes beyond a single university president. Like a virus, hatred of Jews has survived over time by mutating. In the Middle Ages, we were persecuted because of our religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was because of our race, and today, it is because of our existence as a nation-state. This same virus is pervasive in many of our universities, on social media and across many streams of our society. At this critical time, when antisemitism is at an all-time high, it is the responsibility of our academic centers to set the necessary precedent through words, policy, and action that there is no place for antisemitism and hate. Calls for genocide, both open and cloaked, are extremist acts and there should be no equivocation in denouncing them.

 

By definition, universities are charged with developing the minds that will craft our future. While freedom of speech and academic freedom are important, they can also be, and have often been, weaponized. This results in students feeling vulnerable, fearful for their lives, and at risk. Academic centers have a profound responsibility to ensure moral clarity and take leadership. As a start, they must address their obligations under Title VI: defining and educating students and faculty about antisemitism on campus and ensuring comprehensive and transparent policies and processes for responding to antisemitism are in place. They must also lead in how they teach students to become better informed and hold dialogues. The current graffiti-laden mob rule atmosphere, the sickening influence of social media, and use of equivalency methods only create further divisions. Our academic centers must uphold these responsibilities in order to be worthy of sending our children there.”

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