The faculty union at Rutgers University is defending the academic freedom of a professor it says received death threats after a lecture about Israeli and Palestinian relations.
On Feb. 3, Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of women's and gender studies, gave a speech called "Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine matters" at Vassar College, a private college in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Puar's lecture included discussion of the what she called the "maiming and stunting" of the Palestinian population, according to an event description on Vassar's website.
She detailed tactics she said were used by Israeli Defense Force soldiers to use live ammunition to cripple Palestinian civilians, according to The Miscellany News, Vassar's student newspaper.
The comments set off a firestorm of criticism against Puar, including allegations of anti-Semitism.
Puar declined to comment on her lecture.
On Feb. 25, Rutgers' faculty union issued a statement defending her, a rarity for the union. Academic freedom protects all scholarly research and communication, including criticism of government actions or morality, the union's statement said.
Some detractors objected "in a scholarly fashion" to Puar's view on Israeli politics while others accused her of racism and called for her firing, the union said.
"Many have used social media to menace her with threats of rape and murder," the union statement said.
Threats against professors are not protected, the union argued.
"Academic freedom does not protect such personal attacks or any threats to individuals based on race, ethnicity, politics or intellectual disagreements," the union said. "Indeed, such implicit violence is antithetical to the free exchange of ideas that is at the core of academic freedom."