Prof. Joy Karega last fall: “I love being at Oberlin. I’m a good fit there.”
Joy Karega is the “social justice writing” assistant professor at Oberlin College who posted blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracy claims on her Facebook page.
Those posts included claims that the Jewish Rothschild family controls the media and politicians, that Israel is behind ISIS/ISIL, and that the 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo attacks were Mossad false-flag operations.
Equally important, and something overlooked by the media except us, Karega is a big supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and helped organize a BDS event at Oberlin just as few days ago at Oberlin at the request of the Oberlin Students for Justice in Palestine.
Karega was on a list of non-tenured faculty that the Black Student Union demanded be granted tenure, as part of its 14-page list of demands. Karega fit right in at Oberlin, in her own words. Given the pervasive anti-Israel, sometimes anti-Semtic atmosphere, there’s no surprise she would think that:
The initial reaction from the Oberlin administration was tepid, at best. The college initially issued a short statement defending Karega’s right to hold whatever views she wants:
Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff, and alumni to express their personal views. Acknowledgement of this right does not signal institutional support for, or endorsement of, any specific position. The statements posted on social media by Dr. Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, are hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College.
A few days ago, Oberlin President Marvin Krislow issued a personal statement which didn’t event call the posting anti-Semitic, did not condemn it and spent more time talking about academic freedom than anything else. The statement reads, in part:
The screenshots affected me on a very personal level. 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.
Contrast how Krislov and the Oberlin community reacted to anti-black, anti-LGBT statements posted on campus three years ago, including all-campus meetings and cancellation of classes, and a denunciation of the remarks. So far, no such public introspection for the community on the proliferation of an anti-Semitic atmosphere on campus stoked by the BDS movement, something about which Oberlin alumni complained in an Open Letter to the adminitration.
Karega, for her part, not only is not backing down or sounding contrite, she is doubling down by vowing to lawyer up and further expand her inquiry into the alleged racism of those criticizing her anti-Semitic outbursts. She invoked the support not only of Robin Kelley, the BDS speaker she invited to campus, but also the anti-Semitic conspiracy site Veterans Today.
Finally, however, the Oberlin Board of Trustees has stepped in, and issued a strong statement condemning the comments as “anti-Semitic and abhorrent,” and inviting the faculty to try to justify them if it can:
At our quarterly Board meeting yesterday, the Trustees of Oberlin College discussed postings on social media by an Oberlin faculty member.
These postings are anti-Semitic and abhorrent. We deplore anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry. They have no place at Oberlin.
These grave issues must be considered expeditiously. In consultation with President Marvin Krislov, the Board has asked the administration and faculty to challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings and to report back to the Board.
From its founding, Oberlin College has stood for inclusion, respect, and tolerance. We still do.
Clyde S. McGregor ’74, Chair, Oberlin College Board of Trustees
Oberlin has an anti-Semitism problem, but cannot bring itself to truly deal with it because it is intertwined with that most precious of modern progressive causes, the BDS movement.