College Must Protect Academic Freedom

Anh Lê, Parent of an Oberlin alumnus

To the Editors:

I recently learned of Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition Joy Karega being put on leave of absence.

Oberlin is renowned for its tradition of intellectual inquiry, free thought, rigorous debate and exchange of ideas.

I call on Oberlin College to protect the College’s adherence and commitment to the values of academic freedom, free speech and intellectual inquiry.

I urge Oberlin to deliberate this matter with rational discourse, integrity and fairness.

One doesn’t have to necessarily agree or disagree with some of the Facebook contents that Professor Karega posted.

Discussions of different social and political issues are vital to the Oberlin College community, including topics such as divestment from corporations doing business with Israel, criticism of Israeli government policy regarding Gaza, the West Bank and Palestinians.

Discussions of these issues should not elicit labeling people as being “anti-Semitic” if their views happen to differ from ours.

Would we label individuals such as Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT and Rabbi Michael Lerner as being “anti-Semitic” for their views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Professor Chomsky, condemning the Israeli military operations in Gaza, stated in 2014, “It’s a shameful moment for the U.S. media when it insists on being subservient to the grotesque propaganda agencies of a violent, aggressive state, Israel.” Rabbi Lerner has also condemned Israeli actions and occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

President Krislov stated in an article on The Source on March 1, 2016, “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.”

He continued, “Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community. … This freedom enables Oberlin faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussions of ideas that some may find deeply offensive.”

We send our warmest and best wishes to everyone at Oberlin College and to the townspeople of Oberlin.

Our family is forever deeply grateful to Oberlin.

– Anh Lê
Parent of an Oberlin alumnus