A majority of faculty members at Oberlin College have signed a letter condemning a colleague’s anti-Semitic social media posts. Joy Karega, an assistant professor at Oberlin, has been heavily criticized since The Tower disclosed her Facebook posts in February.
“When the anti-Semitic Facebook posts by one of our colleagues came to light, many of us on the Oberlin faculty initially thought it prudent to wait for our administration to come forward with a response grounded in careful deliberation and due process,” the letter, which has 174 signatories, states. “It has now become clear that these complex discussions are going to take a while longer.”
“Bigotry has no place on the Oberlin campus (or anywhere),” the letter continues. “It sullies the values of equality and mutual support that are embedded in our institutional DNA as the first coeducational college and the first to admit students of all races as a matter of policy. … As scholars and teachers who treasure all Oberlin has been and must continue to be, we condemn any manifestation of bigotry on our campus — especially from our faculty.”
Karega is still teaching at Oberlin and has not issued an apology for her posts, which blamed Israel for the rise of ISIS and the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and endorsed claims that “Israeli and Zionist Jews” were behind the 9/11 attacks. The college has issued a statement disassociating itself from Karega’s views, and the chairman of Oberlin’s board of trustees called for an investigation into her “anti-Semitic and abhorrent” postings.
However, a minority of Oberlin professors have said that Karega, an African-American woman, is being scapegoated for broader concerns about campus anti-Semitism. Those professors refused to add their names to the letter signed by the majority of their colleagues.
“In this climate and context, I will not sign any letter in solidarity with the 170 (last I saw) Oberlin faculty who signed,” Gillian Johns, an associate professor of English and Africana studies, wrote in a correspondence that was shared with Inside Higher Ed. “I am outraged at the irresponsible hostility drummed up against [Karega] as a scapegoated target for what we have been led to believe is a more general concern about anti-Semitism at Oberlin, especially when students called for cooler heads and we Africana faculty are repeatedly called upon to understand and model for our students appropriate responses to different scales of anti-Black racism.”
The Karega controversy has been the latest in a series of incidents that has prompted some Oberlin community members to denounce what they described as a hostile campus climate towards Jewish students.
A group of over 300 Oberlin students, alumni, faculty and parents charged in an open letter in January that anti-Israel student groups at Oberlin “intimidate, threaten, and coerce Jewish students” and contribute to a “divisive and damaging environment” on campus.