Oberlin College alumni hailed Wednesday’s announcement by their alma mater that a blatantly antisemitic assistant professor had been placed on paid leave until further notice,The Algemeiner has learned, two days after reporting on the outrage surrounding the college’s continued employment of Dr. Joy Karega.
Melissa Landa, of Oberlin Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) — part of a national network engaged in combating antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on campus — called Karega’s suspension an “appropriate and welcome step.”
“We recognize that the terms of her contract need to be taken into account and, at the same time, agree with the college’s decision not to have her work directly with students, given her problematic views and questionable judgement,” Landa told The Algemeiner, referring to Karega’s posts on social media — among them accusations that Israelis and Jews are behind ISIS, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and of controlling the world.
As The Algemeiner reported, last week, Oberlin ACF sent a letter to Board of Trustees Chair Clyde McGregor — who in a March 5 statement called Karega’s posts “antisemitic and abhorrent” — asking for clarification on Karega’s continued employment and the school’s ostensible investigation of her behavior. The letter came as a result of Oberlin’s five-month long silence regarding Karega, Landa told The Algemeiner.
“We are pleased with our efforts and stand by our strategies and decisions,” she said. “Oberlin ACF always maintained a respectful approach and dialogue with the administration — which is why we consistently reached out to the administration before contacting the press. However, it was clear to us that we needed media attention in order to get any kind of response.”
On Wednesday, two days after The Algemeiner requested a response from Oberlin about Karega’s continued employment, a spokesman for the college notified The Algemeiner of its decision to suspend Karega, writing in a statement:
For the past several months, Oberlin College has been considering carefully the grave issues surrounding the antisemitic postings on social media by Oberlin faculty member Dr. Joy Karega.
In March, in consultation with President Marvin Krislov, the Trustees of Oberlin College asked the administration and faculty to ‘challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings.’ The College initiated its faculty governance process to review Dr. Karega’s professional fitness in light of these postings.
The faculty governance process that began thereafter is ongoing, and the Oberlin administration will continue to respect this process as it plays out. Until that process is complete, Dr. Karega has been placed on paid leave and will not teach at Oberlin.
In recognition of the sensitivity of this review process and the privacy of the individuals involved, we will have no other comment until the conclusion of the process.
Though, as of press time, Karega was still listed as an instructor in Oberlin’s 2016-2017 course catalog, The Algemeiner was informed that arrangements are being made by the school to find substitutes to cover her teaching and advising responsibilities.
As reported by The Algemeiner in March, it was first revealed by The Tower that Karega’s Facebook page was riddled with years’ worth of posts — that have subsequently been deleted — invoking traditional antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories found in the notorious forgery the Protocols of the Elder of Zion.
In one January 2015 post, following the infamous Charlie Hebdo murders, Karega shared an image of an ISIS terrorist disguised as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — with a Star of David tattoo on his arm and the acronym JSIL, a slur used to compare Israel to the Islamic State. The caption accompanying the image implies the attack was a “false flag” aimed at halting French support for Palestinians.
In March 2015, Karega shared a blog post with an embedded video of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. In the video, Farrakhan says, “It is now becoming apparent that there were many Israeli and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attack.” Karega wrote, “Farrakhan is truth-telling in this video.”
Landa said that Oberlin’s decision conveys an important message to professors.
“As educators, their task is to teach students to think critically, to consider all perspectives and to challenge bias and racism in all its forms, including antisemitism,” she said. “Today, given the prevalence of social media, professors have an additional responsibility to recognize that what they post is going to be seen by students. Particularly in Karega’s case, she made her posts public.”
If a professor “is unable to separate out personal biases from teaching, so that all students can feel safe and respected, then he or she shouldn’t be teaching. Racism cannot be relativized,” Landa said, adding that it is “unacceptable” of Karega “to devote her life’s work to combating racism, while simultaneously espousing Jew-hatred. Hate is hate.”
Though Karega will not actively be teaching at Oberlin, Landa said, her alumni group remains “concerned about the bigger picture, including the circumstances surrounding which she was hired; the impact that she has already had on Oberlin students; and faculty members who have been vocal in supporting her. We believe that these larger issues still need to be addressed.”
However, she added, “We thank the Oberlin faculty members who are speaking out against antisemitism.”
(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal