After mounting pressure on the administration of Lincoln University to repudiate the views of a longtime literature professor who has called for the destruction of Israel and promoted Holocaust denial, the university issued a statement on Oct. 28 calling the professor's views "an insult to all decent people."
Five days later, Lincoln's top two officials met with representatives of several Jewish groups, as well as two state lawmakers, at the Center City offices of the American Jewish Committee.
The parties agreed to organize some type of programming at the historically black college to educate students about both the Holocaust and black-Jewish relations in America, according to Ilana Krop Wilensik, director of AJC's Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey office.
Wilensik said the incident could lead to closer ties between the school and Jewish groups. No details on the specific programming have been released.
This week's meeting was the latest development in the controversy surrounding Kaukab Siddique, a Pakistani-born, tenured professor at the state-funded college in Chester County.
As the issue first unfolded, the university stood by Siddique, and affirmed the right of faculty members to express their views outside the classroom and away from campus -- no matter how controversial the subject.
But in a change of course, Lincoln University's president, Ivory Nelson, and its executive vice president, Michael Hill, released the statement last week calling Siddique's comments on Israel and the Holocaust "insidious." (Hill is a former co-president of Operation Understanding, an AJC-affiliated program that brings African-American and Jewish youth together.)
In an interview with the the Jewish Exponent, Hill went even further than the statement, calling Siddique's statements "completely despicable, odious and not consistent with what Lincoln University stands for and what it believes."
He called the meeting with AJC and other groups extremely positive. He said Lincoln planned to host a national symposium focusing on freedom of speech and the academy.
"I can't imagine this situation not being part of the symposium," he said, referring to the controversy over Siddique.
He confirmed that a member of the administration has had at least one conversation with the professor in the last two weeks, but said he couldn't discuss personnel matters in detail.
But in its statement last week, the administration said that Siddique, like all faculty, was entitled to convey his own views in public forums as long as he did not present them as the views of the university.
As a result, the statement said, the university could not "take action at this time based on the content of Dr. Siddique's statement."
Nelson was pressed to repudiate Siddique's comments in an Oct. 28 meeting with four state lawmakers. The politicians had urged the administrator to condemn Siddique's rhetoric and investigate the process by which he received tenure back in 1991.
Wilensik expressed appreciation for the school's statement.
"They abhor what happened, but find themselves in a bind because their hands are virtually tied with what they can and what they can't do," she said.
Siddique, who heads a Baltimore-based organization that promotes anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, sprung to national attention last month when a speech he made on Labor Day in Washington was posted by www.investigativeproject.org and reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
In the footage, Siddique tells a crowd at an anti-Israel rally: "We must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel -- if possible by peaceful means."
He also called the Sept. 11 terror attacks a "Zionist plot."
In an e-mail released to the media, he said his issue was not with Jews, but with Israel.