Advocates, Community Members Applaud Rutgers for Disciplinary Actions Against ‘Antisemitic’ Professor
Advocates and community members have applauded Rutgers University for taking disciplinary action against a professor who shared tweets denigrating Jews and Israel.
After completing an initial internal investigation, the university confirmed in a letter sent to faculty on Friday that Professor Michael Chikindas — who claimed that Judaism is “the most racist religion in the world” — “posted extensive bigoted, discriminatory, and anti-Semitic material on social media.”
The letter, signed by President Robert Barchi and Chancellor Deba Dutta, announced that Chikindas will no longer teach required courses or serve as director of the school’s Center for Digestive Health. “No Rutgers employee will be required to work in an administrative unit that he heads,” they wrote.
Chikindas will also be required to take part in a cultural sensitivity training program, and “will be subject to ongoing monitoring if and when he returns to the classroom.”
The professor may also face “further disciplinary action” under Appendix H of the faculty contract, which deals with procedures for suspending faculty members at less than full pay.
The decision was well-received by the Jewish campus group Rutgers Hillel, which commended these “important, significant and welcome steps” in a statement sent to The Algemeiner.
The group praised “the sensitivity and integrity of the University leadership in the matter of Professor Michael Chickindas,” but warned that his comments “do not take place in a vacuum” — pointing to white supremacist flyers and swastikas recently found on campus, as well as “the announcement that another Rutgers professor, Jasbir Puar, has published a book falsely accusing the world’s only Jewish state of what amounts to a modern blood libel.”
The group also pointed to revelations — first reported by The Algemeiner — that Rutgers is employing Mazen Adi, a former spokesperson for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, to teach international law.
Adi has “voiced support for the blood libel spread by Professor Puar that Israel harvests Palestinian children’s organs for some nefarious cause,” Rutgers Hillel noted, referencing allegations Adi made while defending the Syrian government at the United Nations in 2012.
“These events are a source of continuing pain to the Rutgers Jewish community,” the group added, urging university leaders to exert their “moral authority” and condemn “the anti-Semitism voiced by Professors Puar and Adi,” even if the university “lacks the will or ability” to take more significant action.
Miriam Waghalter, a freshman at Rutgers who helped publish a petition calling for Chikindas’ suspension in October, similarly told The Algemeiner that the university “should take action” over Adi’s past comments, but praised administrators for “taking our concerns seriously.”
Waghalter, also a fellow with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and president of the CAMERA-supported group Scarlet Knights for Israel at Rutgers, noted that university leaders “are being meticulous in making sure that they do not violate Prof. Chikindas’ first amendment rights,” adding that “ideally,” more action will be taken against him.
CAMERA, in turn, commended Rutgers for “taking the appropriate action against Professor Michael Chikindas.”
“We now wait for President Barchi to stand tall against all expressions of hate stemming from his professors including Professors Jasbir Puar and Mazen Adi who include blood libels targeting Jews in their writing and statements,” Lia Lands, a spokesperson for the advocacy group, told The Algemeiner.
Rutgers’ announcement was also supported by the American Jewish Committee, with Rabbi David Levy, director of the group’s New Jersey branch, saying, “President Barchi and Chancellor Dutta have demonstrated that anti-Semitism is not welcome on campus and anti-Semites will be held accountable.”
Rena Nasar, tri-state campus director for the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, said, “We were concerned about previous statements made by the Rutgers administration,” referring to comments made by Barchi at a townhall last month.
While Barchi acknowledged at the time that Chikindas said “things which most of us would find repugnant,” he also said that his comments “are covered by his First Amendment right to free speech,” and that there was nothing in Chikindas’ postings “that is actionable.” Barchi also said that until then, the professor’s teaching record was “very strong.”
“We are glad they did the right thing in the end,” Nasar said of Rutgers administrators. “I’m proud of the students at Rutgers who stood up and sent a clear message that racism and homophobia have no place on campus.”