In February and March 2014, Vassar witnessed ugly and racialized taunting of professors and students regarding a class trip to Israel, Anti-Israel academic boycott turns ugly at Vassar.  The administration took a hands-off approach.

Starting shortly after my appearance at Vassar on May 5, to speak against academic BDS, Students for Justice in Palestine began a social media campaign focused on the race of the crowd as a means of denigrating my appearance as an old white Zionist alumni intrusion onto campus.

SJP’s social media then devolved further, into tweeting and posting of white nationalist and neo-Nazi anti-Zionist material:

Vassar SJP Twitter Nazi Poster Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.03.51 AM

(Image via Prof. Rebecca Lesses)

The tweets and postings were documented by Ithaca College Professor Rebecca Lesses at her blog, Mystical Politics.  SJP initially defended the conduct at its Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr and Twitter accounts, but then apologized on Sunday, May 11 and again on Tuesday, May 13:

Vassar SJP Facebook Daniel Gleason Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 3.31.48 PM

(Image via Rebecca Lesses)

Reports and analysis also have also been conducted by Jonathan Marks at Commentary and Daniel Mael at Truth Revolt.

In its May 13 Apology, Vassar SJP sought to blame a single unidentified person running the Twitter and Tumblr accounts:

An Apology from the SJP Vassar General Body

Up until this point, the social media platforms (tumblr and twitter) associated with SJP Vassar’s name have been managed by one person and the SJP general body was not involved in decisions made about what was being posted. We condemn any and all hate speech including any form of anti-Semitism and we are deeply sorry several offensive posts were made in SJP Vassar’s name.

We are now reevaluating how social media associated with SJP Vassar will be managed as we sincerely want these outlets to reflect our mission of social justice, opposition to all forms of racism, and solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Ironically, SJP had earlier posted on it’s Tumblr account a claim that accusations of anti-Semitism against the Palestinian movement were unfounded, as it was tweeting and posting anti-Semitic materials:

Vassar SJP Tumblr May 7 Baseless Slander Anti-Semiitism

The attempt to blame a single student supposedly going rogue rings hollow.

Are we to believe that none of the Vassar SJP members saw any of the offensive posts and tweets, and the defense of that conduct across multiple SJP platforms?

Moreover, I have on good information that one of the people behind at least some of the tweets and posts is one of the leaders and active members of SJP. (More on this potentially in a future post.)

The defense and apology don’t add up.

More important, the apology may be a reaction in part not only to the widespread social media reaction, but also to complaints filed by other students of varying political persuasions with Vassar’s Bias Incident Report Team.

The complaints regard not just the specific tweets and posts regarding Zionism, but also wider bias exhibited on other social media platforms run by active members of SJP, including Shit White People Say at Vassar College.

Whether a college even should involve itself in regulating speech is an important issue.  A good argument can be made against speech codes.

But Vassar, as do many colleges, does have speech and bias codes.  The question is whether those rules will be applied as to anti-Semitic, anti-white rhetoric as forcefully as to bias against other groups.

My inquiry to Vassar as to its position has not been returned as of this writing.

One important take-away from this, regardless of outcome, is not the specific tweets and posts, it is the shared space between anti-Semites and anti-Israel activists, something we saw when it turned out that the Overland Park, KS, shooter was a fan of Max Blumenthal’s anti-Zionist conspiracy theories.

A second take-away is that perhaps SJP students will learn not to reject true (old-fashioned) liberalism of thought, the willingness to consider both sides and to protect the individual:


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