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September 22, 2016 3:54 pm

Jewish Professors Sue Boston’s Wheelock College for Antisemitic Discrimination After Administration ‘Ignored Complaints, Rebuffed Mediation Efforts’

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Wheelock College campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Wheelock College campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Two Jewish faculty members at Wheelock College in Boston said they were left with no recourse but to file a lawsuit against the school and its former president, after their repeated complaints of antisemitic discrimination were ignored, one of the plaintiffs told The Algemeiner on Thursday. 

“We tried, through our own attorney, to come together many times with the college at the mediation table,” said Dr. Eric Silverman, who is joined by Dr. Gail Dines in suing Wheelock and former president Jackie Jenkins-Scott. “But Wheelock repeatedly rejected our efforts, either outright rejecting them, or — in one notable instance — cancelling at the last minute, even though we had an appointment with a federal mediator,” he told The Algemeiner.

Silverman and Dines initially filed a workplace discrimination complaint against Wheelock and Jenkins-Scott with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February, after they were subjected to what they said was harassment by the administration for their having expressed concern about a lack of inclusion of Jewish perspectives on campus.

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The Wheelock professor told The Algemeiner that after a long battle with the school and “our many efforts to halt the ongoing and escalating discrimination,” the administration “refused to curtail its hostility” and “escalated” the situation, leading him and Dines no choice but to file a federal lawsuit.

According to Silverman’s federal complaint, which is similar to Dines’:  

The action arises from the discrimination, harassment, retaliation and defamation…based on Dr. Silverman’s Jewish race and religion. Dr. Silverman has been systematically subjected to a continuous series of adverse employment actions by President Jenkins-Scott, the Wheelock administration, and Wheelock’s Board of Trustees, and KGB; who have humiliated and punished Dr. Silverman, diminished his standing at the College and in the wider community, and prevented him from progressing at the College. As a result, Dr. Silverman has been and continues to be subject to significant reputational damage and emotional issues as well as loss of employment opportunities.

Silverman told The Algemeiner that with his and Dines’ latest legal move, “We seek what we have always sought since we first raised our voices in support of greater inclusion of Jewish and Jewish experiences into our institutional vision of diversity: for Wheelock to truly live up to its mission of social justice.”

“As for ourselves, we seek to regain our professional sense of wholeness and integrity that was so terribly assaulted by Wheelock,” he added.

Silverman told The Algemeiner that he and Dines are “deeply saddened” about having to take legal measures against Wheelock. “We do not want this lawsuit. We want only for the college to help us, and thus to help the institution itself, reach a just and moral resolution so we can regain our wholeness,” he said.

Responding to The Algemeiner’s request for comment on the lawsuit, Wheelock College President David Chard stated:

Wheelock College has been informed that Professors Dines and Silverman have filed civil lawsuits in federal court against Wheelock College. I have been working closely with our legal counsel and am confident that we are prepared to address any allegations against the College.

When the initial EEOC complaints were filed, the College filed very detailed responses with the EEOC and was fully prepared to participate openly with the investigation. Unfortunately, Professors Silverman and Dines made the decision to remove their matters from the EEOC and pursue their personal claims in court.

Professors Silverman and Dines have been offered, and accepted, paid leaves of absence for the 2016-2017 academic year. During this time, they are relieved of teaching, leadership, and committee responsibilities, but are expected to continue their scholarly work.

At Wheelock College, we are committed to creating, cultivating, and preserving a culture of inclusion, equity, and diversity for all staff, faculty, and students. These lawsuits will not impact those values, the quality of our teaching and learning, or the experiences we share as a community. Our College provides a supportive learning environment, student support, and rigorous academic challenges. It is our utmost commitment to guide and shape the futures of our nation’s next generation of leaders who, themselves, will improve the lives of children and families.

My first-year goal as President is to continue fulfilling the College’s mission, which specifically includes advancing diversity and inclusion, as well as building our academic leadership team to best serve students. I ask that the focus on our community be our impact on our students and the work of our community members in practice and scholarship as we all work to improve the lives of children and families.

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