Rutgers Cannot Defend Hiring Assad Spokesman, Antisemite
Rutgers University is supposed to be a safe and encouraging environment for students to learn about their passions. A large component of that goal is the quality of the faculty members employed by the university.
Over the past few weeks, it has been revealed that several members of the Rutgers faculty have backgrounds — and hold beliefs — that are antithetical to the ideals that Rutgers has as a university. First, Professor Michael Chikindas posted blatantly antisemitic and homophobic posts online — and then we learned that Professor Mazen Adi worked for the Assad regime in Syria, and repeatedly expressed support for Assad’s war crimes, and personally touted antisemitic lies of the worst kind.
We question the university’s decision to hire Adi in the first place, and want to know why both professors are still employed at the university. We also believe it’s unacceptable that Rutgers has yet to properly address the troubling actions of both professors.
Adi was hired at Rutgers in 2015, after working for the Assad regime in Syria for over 16 years. He had a hand in defending Syria to international bodies such as the UN, and has “justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime,” according to UN Watch. Ironically, he is scheduled to teach a class on “International Criminal Law and Anti-Corruption” next semester. Rutgers has responded to demands to fire Adi by saying that, “Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the University will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely.”
But, we have to ask ourselves, should an “apologist for … mass murder” be given the platform to speak freely in the context of a political science class about anti-corruption, while being so blatantly a part of it? And if Adi really opposed what was happening in Syria, why did he continue working for Assad years into the civil war (and that’s ignoring Syria’s blatant war crimes and other indefensible behavior prior to the civil war). Adi clearly has a biased and unethical world worldview, and it should not be shared at our university.
Furthermore, according to The Algemeiner, a former student has claimed that Adi defended Palestinian terrorism in class as a legitimate form of “resistance” to Israeli “occupation.” Clearly, Adi’s positions cannot be part of the fabric and culture of inclusion and peace that Rutgers University promotes. The university defends its decision to hire Adi based on “his expertise in international law and diplomacy, and other fields.” But is genocidal diplomacy the type of politics that we want taught at our university? Where is the line drawn?
This revelation of Adi’s past came soon after Chikindas’ Facebook page was revealed to contain many problematic posts. After creating a petition to suspend Chikindas, we have yet to hear a response from the chancellor or president of the university, both of whom received an email with the petition and more than 5,000 signatures over a week ago. While we appreciate the university’s statement condemning Chikindas’ posts, further action must be taken.
Freedom of speech is a right that all citizens and all students have, including these professors. But while what they say might not break US law, they do not adhere to the culture that we here at Rutgers have worked so hard to cultivate. As students and humanitarians, we do not support mass murder and terrorism — nor those who try to excuse and justify it.
Rutgers University must recognize how immoral that employing these professors is, and end their contracts immediately. As students, we do not deserve to be subject to people who are capable of spewing such hatred.
Miriam Waghalter is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. Austin Altman is a Rutgers Business School sophomore. Miriam is the Rutgers CAMERA Fellow and President of the CAMERA-supported group Scarlet Knights for Israel, where Austin is also a member.
A version of this article was originally published by Rutgers’ Daily Targum.