Administration Cannot Ignore Allegations of Anti-Semitism

Melissa Landa, OC '86 and President, Oberlin Chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness

To the Editors:

For the past four weeks, the Oberlin community has been in turmoil as a result of Professor Joy Karega’s public anti-Semitic social media posts and the various responses they have elicited. Of all the responses I have seen, I am grateful to Clyde McGregor, OC ’74, and the Board of Trustees for their unequivocal condemnation of Professor Karega’s words and their view that “anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry … have no place at Oberlin.”

In addition, I applaud Professor Abraham Socher’s op-ed in The Oberlin Review (“Karega-Mason’s Facebook Posts Anti-Semitic”), which put the posts into their proper historical context. I also appreciate the many statements of support for the Oberlin Jewish community that I have seen, and I am delighted to hear that Jewish students are proudly expressing their Jewish and Zionist identities in response to Professor Karega’s hurtful messages.

I am, however, dismayed by other responses from members of the Oberlin community. In the official Oberlin Alumni Facebook group, in public social media posts and in the press, I have confronted denial, equivocation, misdirection, justification and victim-blaming. Some deny that Professor Karega’s posts are anti-Semitic. Other responders recognize that Professor Karega’s posts are anti-Semitic but proceed to voice their own views about why Jews or Zionists are objectionable. Shockingly, still others claim that Professor Karega’s vicious and totally unfounded conspiracy theories are true.

With great concern, I regard such hostile responses as symptomatic of a culture that denies that anti-Semitism is a legitimate problem or a true form of bigotry. I see evidence of this culture when other alumni leaders claim that they “are unaware of hateful actions on campus,” ignoring the documented incidents that have been reported by alumni and in the press. I see evidence of this culture when faculty and administrators tolerate the promulgation of hateful falsehoods with no academic grounding in accordance with “academic freedom,” and I see further evidence of this culture when a faculty member defends Professor Karega while acknowledging that he has not read the posts in question.

As troubled as I am about Professor Karega’s anti-Semitic views, I am more troubled by knowing that she publicly shared her views for months and years before they were reported to the Oberlin administration and by listening to those who continue to defend her actions. I am also concerned about the persistent hostile campus atmosphere that Jewish students reported several months ago, which emanates from the prevalent, unbalanced and unchallenged anti-Israel sentiment being taught in many classes.

It is time to recognize that antiSemitism is penetrating the moral and intellectual fiber of Oberlin. Oberlin College can no longer afford to compromise its legacy of academic rigor and social justice by discounting the concerns of Jewish students. I remain hopeful that the college will honor its responsibility to address this issue by acknowledging the damage that has been done to the Oberlin community and by committing time and resources to its repair so that all members of the community can move forward together.

Melissa Landa
OC ’86 and President, Oberlin Chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness