VASSAR STUDENTS ASK ADVOCACY GROUPS FOR HELP, REPORT INCREASED
35 Jewish and Civil Rights Groups Urge Immediate Action From Vassar President
Santa Cruz, CA, May 16, 2016 – At the request of several Jewish students at Vassar College who report feeling unsafe in light of an uptick in numerous anti-Semitic incidents since February, 35 Jewish and civil rights groups today wrote to Vassar College President Catharine Hill urging her to do more to prevent anti-Semitism and protect Jewish students.
“Last week, several Jewish students on your campus approached us and asked for our help. They reported an alarming and threatening escalation in anti-Jewish hostility that has not been adequately addressed by campus administrators,” wrote the groups.
“The students told us that this semester, in the midst of a protracted and virulently anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a number of anti-Semitic incidents occurred which have caused them to feel singularly vulnerable and threatened,” continued the groups.
The incidents include unaddressed swastikas, Jewish students being mocked and vilified during a March BDS vote, anti-Semitic statements posted on Vassar Yik Yak including “fuck Jews” and “Zionism is a plague of mankind” and Vassar SJP advertising the sale of shirts with convicted terrorist Leila Khaled holding a gun with the caption “Resistance is not Terrorism.” SJP’s promotion described the shirt and other items for sale as, “sweet fucking antiZionist gear.”
“The Vassar students with whom we spoke were deeply disappointed that you did not publicly acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of these incidents and commit your administration to addressing the extremely hostile environment facing many Jewish students, who are reporting feeling harassed, intimidated and unsafe on your campus.”
The groups called on Hill to, first and foremost, “swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge and condemn all acts of anti-Semitism,” adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that identifies all forms of anti-Jewish bigotry, including when anti-Israel rhetoric crosses the line into anti-Semitism, and increase anti-discrimination training and education. The groups also cited as a model the University of California’s recently adopted “landmark report that explicitly recognized that contemporary forms of anti-Semitism often occur in the guise of anti-Israel activism.”
The students contacted AMCHA Initiative last week concerned for their safety and asking for help. AMCHA then coordinated the letter from the 35 groups.
In March, AMCHA released an empirical study reporting widespread anti-Semitism in 2015 among the top 100 schools for Jewish students. The study also demonstrated that BDS is the strongest predictor of anti-Jewish hostility on campus.
A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.