Oberlin College’s board of trustees is calling for the school administration to launch an investigation into what it called a faculty member’s “anti-Semitic and abhorrent” posts on social media.
In a statement issued Saturday on behalf of the board, its chair, Clyde McGregor, said the trustees at their quarterly meeting the previous day had discussed the “repugnant” posts by assistant professor Joy Karega and want to “challenge the assertion that there is any justification” for them.
Meanwhile, officials at the Ohio liberal arts college promptly denounced an anonymous email sent over the weekend praising the Karega posts and blaming Israel and Jews for the 9/11 terror attacks.
The school’s president, Marvin Krislov, has issued two statements in response to the posts first reported in The Tower on Feb. 25, both defending the professor’s right to free speech while clarifying that her views are not shared by the administration. Neither statement condemned the professor outright or suggested her job might be affected.
By contrast, the trustees’ statement said “these grave issues must be considered expeditiously.”
Karega removed most of her Facebook posts after the Tower article appeared, but she has not apologized for or distanced herself from any posts, which included one claiming Israel’s Mossad perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris.
Over the weekend, many students received an unsigned email that said, according to a document obtained by JTA: “Good Work to Oberlin College, to Professor Joy Karega & President Marvin Krislov!! The state of Israel, Zionist Jews are pure evil They did 9/11”
In an email to the entire student body sent Sunday, Oberlin’s vice president and dean of students, as well as its special assistant to the president for equity, diversity and inclusion, said the email was “anti-Semitic and deeply offensive” and that its content “is so inflammatory and absurd that we’re not going to repeat it or address it directly.”
The administration email said officials believe the perpetrator entered recipients’ addresses individually and had not hacked the student email list.
Weighing in on Friday before the anonymous email went out, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Cleveland Hillel and Anti-Defamation League’s Cleveland Region issued a joint statement saying they met with Krislov and believe the administration is “taking its role seriously.”
“All parties understand and accept that the college is required to follow established academic procedures when addressing questions regarding an individual faculty member,” the statement said. “The Jewish community members present were satisfied that Oberlin College is following those procedures and look forward to learning the outcome of that process.”
Karega has issued intermittent statements on Facebook since the media attention about her began. On Friday, she responded to a school newspaper Op-Ed from the college’s Judaic studies director by saying it’s “one of the more well-articulated arguments I’ve read. To be frank, too many of the arguments designed to ‘condemn me’ or ‘call me out’ have been just downright lazy, homogenizing, uncritical, apolitical, and reductionist.”
She went on to say that while she would “love to respond directly” to the Op-Ed, which placed many of her claims within the larger history of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, she cannot do so because she is not tenured and “the reality is that what I say in that conversation (or what I don’t say) has the potential to inform and shape my future employment here at Oberlin.”
On Saturday, Karega posted that she would no longer “be making any statement concerning my situation at Oberlin.” Since then, she has continued to post articles on other topics, however, including a column headlined “Why We Must Use Apartheid to Describe the Israeli Occupation.”
In January, the Jewish president of Oberlin College, Marvin Krislov, was planning to speak with members of an alumni group that had raised concerns about the anti-Semitic climate on campus. This came weeks after 200 alumni had written to the college administration to voice concern about the actions of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, at Oberlin and a school culture they said tolerated anti-Semitism.