An appeal for action against a Rutgers University professor who made virulently antisemitic comments will be formally submitted to administrators on Wednesday, days after a swastika appeared on campus, The Algemeiner has learned.
The petition, which gained over 4,000 signatures by Tuesday, urges campus officials to immediately suspend Michael Chikindas — a microbiology professor at Rutgers who published and shared dozens of antisemitic posts on social media — while the university continues to investigate his conduct.
Miriam Waghalter, a freshman at Rutgers who published the petition online, told The Algemeiner that while she and other organizers had not yet been contacted by the administration, "hopefully we will hear from them in the near future."
A spokesperson for Rutgers declined to comment on the petition or the ongoing investigation into Chikindas, who also serves as director of the school's Center for Digestive Health.
Tensions have run high on campus since Chikindas' postings were revealed. Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel, said some students in the Food Science Department where Chikindas is a faculty member have expressed concern "that their futures are going to be affected by having a connection to this man."
"Even non-Jewish students are concerned about not just his antisemitism, but practically speaking, what this means for them in the job market," Getraer said in an interview with The Algemeiner. "I have a Jewish student who is supposed to take a class with him next semester, and she doesn't know what to do. It's a requirement for her major."
"There's a real sense of unease" among Jewish students, Getraer added, and not only surrounding Chikindas.
He pointed out that Jasbir Puar — an associate professor of women's and gender studies at Rutgers who has been accused of making antisemitic comments — is set to publish a new book next month, which argues that Israel seeks to deliberately injure Palestinians in order to control them.
Getraer also noted that a swastika was found graffitied on a residence hall next to the main dining hall on campus on Sunday, and said that "a swastika was put on somebody's car" that same day. A spokesperson for Rutgers could not immediately confirm the latter incident.
Jewish students "are used to feeling very comfortable at Rutgers — it's a great place to be Jewish — and suddenly these events have occurred and it's hit them ... like a ton of bricks," Getraer said.
Waghalter, also a fellow with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and president of the CAMERA-supported group Scarlet Knights for Israel at Rutgers, said these incidents marked her first exposure to antisemitism on campus.
She explained that her current concerns stem not only from Chikindas' postings, but also the swastika discovered on campus over the weekend and the publication of Puar's upcoming book.
Aviva Slomich, international campus director for CAMERA, observed that anti-Israel extremism has not been a significant problem among Rutgers students in recent years, "thanks in large part to Rutgers Hillel."
"However, Jasbir Puar and Michael Chikindas, who has lectured at Rutgers for almost 20 years, have had full reign on Rutgers campus — and beyond — to indoctrinate their students from their positions of authority as educators," she warned. "Puar, who is notorious for spreading anti-Semitic blood libels, was given a platform to share her extremist views at both Vassar College and Dartmouth College just last year."
Ben Suster, campus coordinator for CAMERA, counseled students on Friday about ways to respond to Chikindas' antisemitic comments — including by submitting an article to the campus newspaper, which was published on Monday.
"The students feel frustrated and annoyed that a professor filled with hate is employed by their university," Suster told The Algemeiner. "Professors hold power and authority at universities; this makes the imperative to speak out that much stronger."