Vassar Accused of Tolerating Anti-Semitism

February 24, 2016

An essay in The Wall Street Journal and similar essays elsewhere have set off a debate over whether Vassar College tolerates anti-Semitism. The recent discussion centers around comments made by a guest speaker criticizing Israel in ways that some say crossed a line into anti-Semitism. Those accounts also state that the speaker asked the audience not to record her comments, so there is not a definitive record of what was said. The Wall Street Journal piece, "Majoring in Anti-Semitism at Vassar," is by Mark G. Yudof, former president of the University of California system, and Ken Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes the movement to boycott Israel.

Not everyone agrees that Vassar has a problem with anti-Semitism. Abigail Johnson, a junior at Vassar and president of the Vassar Jewish Union, published an essay in The Forward, a Jewish publication, this week in which she described a vibrant Jewish life at Vassar with no more anti-Semitism than one might find in all parts of American society.

Catharine Hill, president of Vassar, has invited alumni and parents to an online discussion of the issues Thursday. She said that the authors of the Journal piece were off base in their criticisms and that she had invited them to campus to see for themselves. Further, while not commenting on the substance of the guest speaker's talk, Hill wrote, "Just as I objected to the call for the American Studies Association boycott of Israeli academic institutions, I will defend the faculty’s right to bring speakers of their choice to campus. I also will let the faculty who invited the recent lecturer speak for themselves."

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