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Vassar Profs Who Brought Students to Israel Describe Campus ‘Climate of Fear’

The anti-Israel sentiment on the Vassar College campus, in upstate New York, was described as a “climate of fear” by two Jewish professors who led a class trip focused on the Jordan River Valley.

According to a letter they penned for the school newspaper, the Miscellany News, the two professors, Jill Schneiderman, in Earth Science, and Rachel Friedman, in Greco Roman and Jewish studies, said the “climate of fear” coalesced around a student forum held by SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine, to protest their trip.

“Many Vassar students and faculty have expressed their concern that over the last several years, a climate of fear has descended on campus,” they wrote in the newspaper. “This fear was confirmed for them during the spectacle at the Open Forum that was held on March 3.”

The open letter was flagged by , Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic, at Cornell University Law School, and legal rights blogger at, who has written about Vassar extensively, as the tone on the campus has deteriorated.

Jacobson wrote, “That fury erupted in an Open Forum organized by the Vassar administration at which those professors together with Jewish students were heckled, jeered and belittled in such a frenzy that it shocked even Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss website, who himself is anti-Israel and was present at the event.”

The interrogation they received from students and peers was bad enough, they said, but the situation got worse when those protesters tried to re-frame their case against Israel into allegations of racism.

In the school newspaper, the two professors continued: “In our opinion, the rage unleashed disrespectfully at us at the forum has engendered as well as a racial dimension.”

“Perhaps one way to begin countering the climate of fear is to work harder campus-wide to engage one another with intellectual openness, listening to the multiple narratives that emanate from the Vassar community,” they said.

“A jumping-off point for this endeavor might be to engage with any one of the 28 breathtakingly thoughtful students who devoted their spring break to the study trip. Though some might caricature these students as having been greenwashed by the two of us or by our itinerary, such spurious depictions underestimate the intelligence of the diverse group of students whom we have been privileged to teach.”

University President Catharine Hill responded to their open letter with her own this week calling for restraint.

“Our International Studies course, the Jordan River Watershed, that included a recent trip to Israel and the West Bank, provided an opportunity for deep engagement and learning around some of the most contentious issues of our time,” Hill wrote.

“While there were and continue to be discussions on campus about what kinds of trips take place, I have been moved by comments from the students and faculty who made this trip. Instead of the monolithic opinions some expected to encounter among many in both areas, they found instead a range of viewpoints. Our students and faculty witnessed …read more
Source: The Algemeiner

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Posted by on April 14, 2014. Filed under Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.