The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today responded to Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill's invitation to alumni and parents to discuss "current issues and tensions" on Vassar's campus related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
ADL said that while this discussion is a "good first step," concrete steps must be taken to effectively address incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on campus and ensure that Jewish students are not isolated and marginalized.
Since 2015, ADL has received a number of firsthand complaints and concerns, including:
"Some Jewish students expressing discomfort about openly identifying their faith on campus.
"The recent speaking appearance of anti-Israel activist Professor Jasbir Puar, which was sponsored by several academic departments. Puar has a history of promoting the charge of "pinkwashing," which refers to the accusation that Israel is attempting to "pinkwash" its alleged persecution of Palestinians by diverting attention to the rights enjoyed by the LGBT community in Israel.
"Anti-Semitic and racist messages published on social media in 2014 by the Vassar chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), for which the group later apologized. Also that year, SJP's chapter organized protests outside of an international studies class whose professor co-led a trip to Israel to explore water issues. The college launched an investigation and asked the Vassar Student Association to review SJP's status as a preliminary organization on campus."
Evan R. Bernstein, ADL New York Regional Director, issued the following statement:
"We are appalled that some Jewish students at Vassar say they feel the need to hide their Jewish identity in order to avoid hostile interactions with fellow students. These firsthand accounts from students about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias – both from faculty and other students – are of great concern to us.
"We appreciate that President Hill's invitation reiterated her dissatisfaction over the imbalance of perspectives available to the Vassar community about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that she is seeking ways to redress this gap. We also welcome her statement strongly denouncing incidents of anti-Semitism and condemning boycotts of Israel, and hope that the College will continue to address these issues whenever they surface. These are good first steps. However, they are not enough.
"President Hill and her administration must take concrete steps to effectively address anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on campus and ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students are not isolated and marginalized. We stand ready to partner with Vassar College to combat this troubling phenomenon, which has left many on the Vassar campus feeling targeted and alienated."
ADL has written to President Hill to express concerns about the anti-Israel guest speaker sponsored by multiple academic departments, and to offer its well-respected training for university administrators, faculty, and campus safety officers to facilitate the creation of a more inclusive campus environment that respects academic freedom and free speech.
To date, the League has not received a response to its two letters to President Hill.