College Leaders Forced to Justify Inactions

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I was riveted watching the Congressional Hearing on Anti-Semitism on college campuses yesterday. Under a harsh spotlight were Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, Gene Block, chancellor of UCLA in Los Angeles, and Jonathan Holloway, president of my alma mater, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Finally I could hear from the heads of three colleges regarding their behavior when confronted with mobs of students and others holding anti-Israel protests (which they call pro-Palestinian). The fourth person on the interrogation bench, Frederick Lawrence, CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, was a real head scratcher. It appeared nobody was interested in him and I couldn’t figure out why the House Committee on Education and Workforce summoned him.

Most of The Congressional representatives seemed well prepared with questions and accusations. A couple though just grandstanded and asked few or no questions at all. Rep Teresa Fernandez (D-NM) used her allotted five minutes to discuss legislation regarding anti-Semitism and why it wasn’t passed. She obviously wasn’t interested in hearing from the three university leaders. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) chose to focus just on Gene Block of UCLA and expressed her outrage that he allowed outsiders to attack the students at the campus encampment. She said that the students were merely protesting “agains the brutal genocide” committed by Israel. Block wasn’t able to answer her because she constantly interrupted him.

The other Congresspeople did ask questions and most waited for answers. One, Eric Burlison (R-Missouri) asked Presient Holloway of Rutgers about the diversity of opinion at Rutgers. He noted that Rutgers prides itself on how diverse it is, but he asked about the number of conservatives on the faculty. Hollway replied he didn’t know because “we don’t have a litmus test for faculty.” Burlison didn’t have time to press back, but I found that remark pretty disingenuous because a quick Google search confirmed that Rutgers does require prospective faculty to submit a position paper about how committed they are to implementing diversity. Sounds like a litmus test to me.

Another ranking member of the committee, Bobby Scott (D, VA) said that Republicans want to defund DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), but claimed that “DEI brings people together.” I’d like to hear him explain how that’s working.

While all three leaders came off sounding defensive and evasive, Schill of Northwestern was clearly the worst of the bunch. What I found particularly skin-crawling was that he talked about his family’s history of suffering during the Holocaust and losing family members as if that would make him appear more caring and sympathetic. That enraged me maybe the most as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. If I were him I’d be embarrassed to admit that I was Jewish and my family experienced mass genocide.

He, as many liberal Jews, has fallen into the trap of believing that because their family suffered unimaginable horrors they are uniquely qualified to be uber-caring about every other minority in the world. No, Mr. Schill you are not. You are supposed to be more sensitive to anti-Semitism and more motivated to root it out whatever the personal cost. You are required to be willing to protect your Jewish students no matter how unprogressive that makes you appear in today’s society.

When Rep. Elise Stefanik (R, NY) asked if he took action against Jewish students who were bullied, (specifically one was was told to “go back to Germany and get gassed,”) his reply was that it was under investigation. She also brought up the ADL’s grade of an F in fighting anti-Semitism. All he could say were bromides such as “we will be working to update policies”,“we are investigating allegations of anti-Semitism,” or “we had a peaceful resolution.” Feh.

Schill also claimed it was not possible to bring in the police. “We didn’t have enough. They would have been endangered,” he explained.

Here’s a fun fact: Northwestern has a School of Police Staff and Command, which according to its website is “at the forefront of law enforcement management.” But this school which purports to help prepare professionals for success in senior command can’t even handle a group of students on their own campus.

I am proud of our community for achieving what has been a challenge across the country, a sustainable, de-escalated path forward,” said Schill. Well that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. Another way would be to see it as capitulating to a mob of ignorant, anti-Semitic students and others who disrupted his college and shouted cruel and inaccurate accusations about Israel and Jews. To me it seems a lot like rewarding bad behaviors.

As for Rutgers, I wrote to President Holloway and Chancellor Conway about their capitulation to the protestors. I didn’t get a response, not even an automated one. I have written for years about faculty members spreading vile lies about Israel and also didn’t get a response even though my entire family are alumni of Rutgers.

At least now, for the first time, I could see that I wasn’t alone. That our Congresspeople, spurred on by their constituents, finally were able to force Holloway and other university leaders to account for their turning a blind eye to their Jewish students while being hyper-sensitive to the slightest real and perceived infractions against other groups of students. At least now, Holloway and the others will know that they are being watched by those who have power and can force them to either stand behind all their students or account for why there aren’t.

About the Author
Gina Friedlander is obsessed with all things Israeli. She served as editor of several trade magazines in the health and supplement industries before switching careers and becoming a high school English teacher and tutor of English and SAT prep. Currently she spends her time visiting Israel, writing, playing tennis, doing Israeli folk dancing, and trying to stay positive.
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