The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has decided that graduate student Kylie Broderick will be allowed to teach the Fall course, "The Conflict Over Israel/Palestine," despite her long public history of attacking Israel.
Classes began on August 18.
Broderick recently tweeted the term "Zionist dirtbags" which is similar to the commonly used antisemitic slur "dirty Jew."
Broderick promotes the idea that Israel should not exist, demands "everyone at UNC ... boycott Israeli products," declares that Palestinians are the only legitimate side in the conflict, and pressures "undergrads" to stop hiding and "Do what's right. Support a #freePalestine now."
UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz dismissed concerns he received from many Jewish leaders and community members, stating he is "confident" that students enrolled in Broderick's class "will benefit from a thoughtful presentation of information relevant to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict."
The Chancellor's response outraged the Jewish community.
Since then, UNC has held many meetings on this issue with multiple Jewish leaders and alumni.
One local rabbi told UNC officials to rename the course "The Palestinian Point of View."
Rather than remove Broderick, multiple sources report that UNC's plan may include some or all the following: having a representative from the UNC Carolina Center for Jewish Studies monitor the class; having Broderick engage with the Center for Jewish Studies; having tests blindly graded; and a mid-year student survey to be seen by Broderick and her mentor.
All classes will be recorded, which may be an additional oversight of Broderick — or may be a standard COVID measure. It is unclear who will be able to view the recordings.
Many Jewish leaders tell me that this UNC plan is dreadfully inadequate because it doesn't ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students will be graded fairly, or have the opportunity to experience the same academic freedoms as their peers.
Rabbi Zalman Bluming, the Chabad Rabbi at UNC and Duke University, told me, "Having the honor of being engaged with thousands of UNC students for close to 20 years, I am deeply disappointed with the incredibly disturbing and underwhelming response from UNC. I can guarantee that this would not be tolerated in any other discipline on campus."
Rabbi Emeritus Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro told me, "This lecturer's prejudice against Israel will stunt nuanced discourse and ostracize Jewish students.
Jewish leaders have shared with UNC officials recent examples of severe hostility some Jewish students have faced on campus or in the classroom, but are too scared to report to the university.
One Jewish UNC student I interviewed trembled on the phone as she talked about widespread hostility on campus. The student will not allow me to publicly share her story, even anonymously, because she fears the backlash and anger she would face on campus.
This current teaching scandal is unfolding as UNC is still reeling from a 2019 scandal when the university hosted and co-sponsored the "Conflict Over Gaza" conference, which made international news for featuring a rapper's blatantly antisemitic performance.
In response to an antisemitism complaint filed with the US Department of Education stemming from this conference, UNC entered into a Resolution Agreement with the department's Office of Civil Rights, requiring UNC "to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment."
Kylie Broderick publicly dismissed this Resolution Agreement in a local paper, calling it an "attack by the federal government." Yet UNC still stands by her.
On May 19, 2021, the same three UNC departments that are sponsoring Broderick's Israel/Palestine course, co-sponsored an anti-Israel Zoom event with Jadaliyya, a pro-Palestinian advocacy organization and publishing outlet.
During one of the event's anti-Israel rants, a speaker accused Israel of "settler colonialism"and "persistent ethnic cleansing," spoke of an "Israeli war machine," and said "hurling rocks" at Israelis should not be considered terrorism, but rather rational behavior. The speaker also promoted the BDS boycott movement, and called Israel an "apartheid" state.
The chancellor and other senior UNC administrators are obligated by the Resolution Agreement "to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment." Having a known Israel-hater — who tweets about "Zionist dirtbags" and promotes the view that Israel should not exist — teach a course on Israel is indeed a hostile environment.
Peter Reitzes is a board member of Voice4Israel of North Carolina and writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.