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In New Statement, Oberlin President Falls Short of Condemning Anti-Semitic Conspiracist

Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov expressed concern about the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of associate professor Joy Karega, but refused to explicitly condemn her, in a blog post published on the Oberlin website Monday night.

The Tower revealed last week that Karega had posted links on Facebook indicating her beliefs that the Rothschild family, a Jewish banking dynasty, owns “your news, the media, your oil and your government,” that Jews were behind the 9/11 terror attacks, and that “the same people behind the massacre in Gaza” had shot down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.

Krislov noted that he had received responses to Karega’s shocking Facebook posts ranging “from demands for the professor’s immediate dismissal to demands that her right to free expression be defended at all costs.”

Krislov added that the screenshots of her posts “affected me on a very personal level,” but declared himself to have a “strong belief in academic freedom.”

I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust. As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors, and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Regardless of the reason for spreading these materials, they cause pain for many people—members of our community and beyond.

I am also the son of a tenured faculty member at a large research university. My father instilled in me a strong belief in academic freedom. I believe, as the American Association of University Professors says, that academic freedom is “the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education” because it encourages free inquiry, promotes the expansion of knowledge, and creates an environment in which learning and research can flourish.

At Oberlin, we are deeply committed to our mission of achieving academic, artistic, and musical excellence and ensuring our students a diverse, inclusive, and equitable educational experience. We demand intellectual rigor and apply the highest academic standards. We also recognize that academic freedom and tenure do not protect unlawful discrimination and harassment, and we provide clear and accessible processes to review such concerns.

He concluded by noting that “cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community….This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive.”

Oberlin’s decision to defend the principles of Karega’s comments was criticized by Kenneth Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. “This is really outrageous conduct by the professor, and the university should address it promptly, effectively, and consistent with all of the university’s own internal policies,” he told The Tower. “The question is not whether the professor is free to say outrageous things or to post hateful materials but whether the university will meet its obligation to address the resulting harm to the students.”

Jerusalem Post op-ed editor Seth Frantzman also slammed the college for their inaction:

There is nothing “personal” about [her views]. Propagating anti-Semitism on social media is public. You can’t expect an African-American student to take a class from a professor who proudly posts about the greatness of the KKK, and you can’t expect students to accept a professor who shares claims the Rothschilds are behind AIDs and downing airliners.

Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin told Haaretz that Karega’s posts were “disgraceful.” “Anti-Semitism is not free speech – it is illegitimate and must be condemned,” he said.

The Tower reported on Wednesday that Karega had promoted other outrageous ideas on her Facebook page, such as that belief that President Barack Obama caused Hurricane Sandy in order to ensure his reelection, and that the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” a fundraiser to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease, was somehow racist.

[Photo: Oberlin College / YouTube ]