Oberlin is once again looking bad, and for the third time (remember the Gibson’s Bakery issue and the College’s deep-sixing the women’s lacrosse coach for saying that trans women shouldn’t compete in sports with biological women?) This time they’re being investigated by the feds for a Title VI violation (this is from the New York Post, but see a similar article at Cleveland.com).
One of the country’s most liberal colleges is being investigated over allegations it allowed antisemitism to breed on campus including having a professor of peace studies who has called for the elimination of Israel and the death of Salman Rushdie.
Oberlin College in Ohio could lose chunks of the millions in annual federal funding as a result of the probe, whose existence it has not yet disclosed to students, alumni and donors. Last year, the school took in more than $5 million in federal grants.
The private liberal arts college is being investigated for possible breaches of Title VI by in Ohio by the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The title protects students from being harassed and discriminated against because of their religion.
Well, if you look up Title VI, you find this on a government site, which contradicts the sentence above (my emphasis). But there can’t be religious discrimination anyway; violations just don’t fall under Title VI:
Title VI does not protect students from religious discrimination. Other federal civil rights laws, however, which are enforced by other federal agencies, do prohibit religious discrimination in schools, colleges, and universities.
However, it does protect students from this kind of discrimination:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects students from race, color, and national origin discrimination. This prohibition encompasses discrimination, including harassment, based on a student’s actual or perceived: (1) shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or (2) citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity.
And, as the letter below from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights notes, the statute violated is (2): students whose shared “Jewish ancestry.” Regardless of the legal niceties, you can’t create a climate of harassment of Jewish students in a college, a climate that would impede their education. (I’m worried that it’s happening at my University.)
The probe, which was opened on September 29, was prompted by a complaint filed in 2019 by Oberlin College graduate Melissa Landa, who founded the Alliance for Israel to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel and hostility toward Jewish students at the school. Landa, who graduated from Oberlin in 1986, is president of the Oberlin Chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness, a non-profit that works to end antisemitism.
She sent the department a dossier of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incidents between 2014 and 2017— and four years later, it finally acted.
Here’s the letter to Landa from the feds (we don’t have one sent to Oberlin, but presumably that’s either sent or coming).
A lot of the complaint appears to center around one specific professor, who does look as if he violated academic freedom by attacking Israel repeatedly in a way that would create an anti-Jewish climate. The professor is now “on sabbatical”.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects students from race, color, and national origin discrimination. This prohibition encompasses discrimination, including harassment, based on a student’s actual or perceived: (1) shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or (2) citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity
The dossier focuses on tenured peace studies and religion professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, who has called himself “professor of peace” but who is accused of supporting Hamas and giving students credit for writing anti-Israel blogs.
It alleges Mahallati told his classes in 2016 that “Israel is a colonialist state” and “Israel is an apartheid state.”
Mahallati, 71, has also taught at Columbia, Georgetown and Princeton. Before becoming an Oberlin professor, he was Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations where he was accused of defending the fatwa, or Islamic decree, issued by Khomeini to murder novelist Salman Rushdie.
“I think all Islamic countries agree with Iran,” he told Reuters in 1989, Fox News reported. All Islamic nations and countries agree with Iran that any blasphemous statement against sacred figures should be condemned.”
. . . The Oberlin professor has also been accused of helping the Iranian government cover up the massacre of thousands of jailed political opponents in 1988, according to a February report by Amnesty International by calling the murders “misinformation” and “political propaganda” at the UN.
While working as a diplomat for Iran, he claimed it was “a religious obligation” for Muslims to “liberate” Palestine from “Zionist usurpers.”
Students boycotted Mahallati’s classes, which were canceled in the spring. A spokeswoman for Oberlin told The Post Tuesday that Mahallati was on “sabbatical” this semester.
I’d say that yes, this goes beyond what a professor should be teaching in his classes, thus violating academic freedom. Whether this itself creates a climate of bias “against students of Jewish ancestry” is up to the government to judge, and to Oberlin to agree that, if this is the case, they have to do something about it.
The penalty for violating any of the Titles of the Civil Rights Act can include withholding government funds from a school, which would be another hit for Oberlin, which had to pay $36.6 million in restitution to Gibson’s Bakery for defamation and other charges. Worse, Oberlin’s reputation was badly smeared.
One more statement from the article.
Oberlin did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. Mahallati did not return an email seeking comment Wednesday.
Oberlin had previously fired one professor, Joy Karega, for Jew hatred, with Tablet labeling her an “unhinged anti-Semite.” That was in 2016, and Tablet has eight articles on its “Oberlin antisemitism” page.
The Jerusalem Post asserts that there is an antisemitic climate at Oberlin, but of course isolated hatred of Israel or Jews by students qualifies as free speech. It has to be a climate that is so severe that it impedes learning:
“Oberlin’s unwillingness to protect its Jewish students from harassment and intimidation is reprehensible. For six years and throughout two Oberlin administrations, Jewish students and alumni who support Israel have reported to me that they were either forced into silence, coerced into anti-Israel activity, or left with no alternative but to transfer to another institution,” Landa said on Wednesday.
ANDREW PATINKIN, class of 2019, told the The Jewish Press that “Many Oberlin students say that Israel is an oppressive state, and they “repeat a lot of misinformation and falsehoods in the name of ‘combating oppression.’
“Unfortunately, this attitude towards Israel is so pervasive that even some Jewish students have taken to decrying Israel because it makes you a ‘better ally’ to a marginalized group, i.e. the Palestinians,” he said. “In the eyes of these students, if you do not actively denounce Israel and its actions, you are a lesser ally and ‘fail’ to understand the ways that oppression works, thereby making you a horrible person.”
As Obelin is a paragon of wokeness, I can’t immediately reject claims of pervasive antisemitism, which, after all, is a leitmotif on such campuses. Stay tuned and see if Oberlin steps into it deeper.