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August 16, 2016 12:29 pm

Tennessee Jewish Federations Outraged by University’s ‘Tepid Response’ to Virulent Antisemitism, Racism on Knoxville Campus

avatar by Lea Speyer

University of Tennessee Knoxville. Photo: UTK.

University of Tennessee Knoxville. Photo: UTK.

Jewish groups in Tennessee expressed “anger, disappointment and worry” over the “tepid response” of university administrators to antisemitism and racism on the Knoxville campus, The Algemeiner has learned.

The Jewish Federations of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville on Tuesday urged the chancellor of the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK), Jimmy Cheek, to stop downplaying evidence — exposed recently by The Algemeiner — of rampant Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism at his institution.

In a letter obtained by The Algemeiner, the heads of the four Tennessee Jewish Federations said they were reaching out to “share our collective concerns and ongoing concerns about the antisemitic and anti-Israel social media postings by current and former students of UTK,” adding that such rhetoric should not be cloaked or excused by the school under the rubric of free speech.

The letter reads in part:

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All four of our Jewish communities have strong ties to the University and many of our constituents have been in contact with us to express their anger, disappointment and worry about these incidents and UTK’s official response. We are deeply troubled by recent events and we insist the University act swiftly and forcefully to condemn this hateful, antisemitic language in clear and unambiguous terms.

Their outrage was sparked after a report earlier this month by The Algemeiner revealed what a covert campus watchdog group Canary Mission described as a “cesspool” of racism and antisemitism at UTK, created by a ring of students associated with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

The Jewish Federations of Tennessee are the latest voices in a chorus imploring UTK to condemn antisemitism and racism on its campus. On Friday, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) called on UTK’s chancellor not only to “’condone the statements’ expressed by the UTK statements, [but] we believe you must go a step further and condemn the statements as antisemitic.”

LDB wrote in a letter:

While we do not dispute the right of students to express themselves, even outrageously or hurtfully, these messages revive bigoted antisemitic and discriminatory tropes, and we are concerned that these types of statements, and similar statements, could create an environment that Israeli students, Jewish students, LGBTQ students, and other students, will reasonably perceive to be hostile.

In a follow-up to The Algemeiner’s original report and UTK’s subsequent response, Canary Mission – a secret organization that monitors anti-American, anti-Israel and antisemitic activities on college campuses – released an expanded dossier on the racist activities of UTK students associated with SJP and the MSA.

According to the group, 14 current students, eight former students and one individual campus outsider are responsible for a total of “97 highly racist, bigoted, antisemitic or threatening posts” on social media.” The information, the group said, is just “the tip of the iceberg.”

The 97 posts span a wide range of offenses, Canary Mission said, including inciting and threatening violence, antisemitism, racism against black and white people, homophobia, praise for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and endorsing terrorism and terrorist organizations.

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