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September 27, 2021 4:26 pm

UNC-Chapel Hill Addresses ‘Concerns’ of Jewish Community Amid Controversy Over Anti-Zionist Instructor

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

South Building at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Photo: Yeungb / Wikimedia

Amid weeks of controversy surrounding a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict taught by an anti-Zionist instructor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill acknowledged “concerns” that have been raised by members of the Jewish community over its efforts to combat antisemitism, and announced a new partnership with Hillel International.

The Fall semester course — “The Conflict Over Israel and Palestine,” in the university’s Department of History — is taught by graduate student Kylie Broderick, whose previous social media posts have called Zionists “dirtbags” and endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

News of the planned course drew concern from local Jewish groups, with the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary calling on the school in August to investigate Broderick’s “fitness to ensure a fair classroom environment” on the topic.

On Friday, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz described a new program with Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative, pledging to “learn best practices for cultivating a positive campus climate where all students are comfortable expressing their identity and values.”

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“At Carolina, we unequivocally reject and deplore antisemitism,” he said. “It has no place on our campus.”

Guskiewicz did not address the controversy around the course, but he recounted meeting several years ago with Jewish students at the university, and coming away with an understanding of “the complexities” around the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and “the ways that Zionism is an integral part of many of our Jewish students’ identity.”

“As an academic community, we have an obligation to support rigorous, informed debate, and this extends to the difficult and sensitive set of topics relating to the history and future of Israel and Palestine,” Guskiewicz said.

“I believe we must recognize the line between some expressions of anti-Zionism and actual antisemitism,” the chancellor continued. “I have heard from students and alumni who’ve felt unwelcome and marginalized by discourse crossing that line, and their experience is troubling to me.”

He also acknowledged “concerns” from members of the community “who think the University has not been forthcoming enough in recognizing antisemitism and communicating our efforts to combat it.”

Guskiewicz said that campus leaders would hold listening sessions in October and in the spring to discuss concerns over discrimination, and advised students harassed over their ethnic or religious identity to report incidents to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.

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