San Francisco State University Slammed by Faculty, Community Leaders for Failing to Confront ‘Institutional Antisemitism’
San Francisco State University (SFSU) was condemned repeatedly this week by Jewish faculty members and community leaders for failing to confront “institutional antisemitism,” according to reporting by a local paper, the J Weekly.
SFSU President Leslie Wong was accused in a series of letters sent by the campus Hillel of being complacent in the face of an increasingly “hostile” campus climate toward Jews, including failing to reject student groups’ anti-normalization policy of not engaging with Zionists or those perceived as pro-Israel, which has left many Jewish students feeling isolated on campus.
A main focus of the Jewish community’s complaints have been the handling by SFSU generally, and Wong specifically, of an April 2016 event featuring Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, which was quickly interrupted by protests. Last month, a frustrated Barkat canceled a speaking engagement on campus that was meant to be a redo of the previous year’s event because, according to the mayor, the administration and staff provided no support for the program. He said SFSU hastily threw the event together without reaching out to Jewish student groups to help organize the event and failed to properly publicize it.
Wong was accused of having extended the invitation as a political stunt.
Though SFSU launched an investigation into the 2016 Barkat protest, no students were punished. Faculty told J Weekly they were disappointed by the lack of results produced by the 11-month inquiry, and that new protocols introduced to prevent shout-downs of speakers have not been properly implemented. Wong created two new posts last summer in response to the Barkat debacle — a director of human relations and of equity programs — but both positions remain empty.
According to J Weekly, in correspondence between Wong and Jewish leaders about the Barkat matter, the president was “sympathetic to Jewish concerns” but “resented the amount of time they took up.” In minutes of a June 2016 meeting provided by SFSU Jewish studies professor Marc Dollinger, Wong also suggested that Hillel was to blame for the disaster.
In a February 2017 incident currently being investigated, Hillel claims it was surreptitiously and deliberately excluded from a campus fair on human rights.
On Thursday, the school’s Hillel director, Ollie Benn, wrote in the paper that SFSU “keeps the organized Jewish campus community at arm’s-length, excludes our students from participating in campus events, allows speakers we invite to be shouted down and refuses to publicly stand against intolerance when it’s directed at the Jewish community.”
He demanded that the university “no longer allow the abrogation of Jewish students’ rights to speak, listen and participate in campus life.”
In a J Weekly editorial, Wong was called on to “step up and lead” the campus in the face of a “litany of [anti-Jewish] abuses.”
Also this week, Canada’s York University was charged with having a “systemic” antisemitism problem.