UNC’s Sham Criticism of Antisemitism
On September 24, the chancellor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), Kevin M. Guskiewicz, issued a statement titled “Confronting antisemitism in our world.” It claimed that the university will work with North Carolina Hillel “to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for our Jewish students” and will be “convening a diverse advisory committee to implement this initiative.”
This statement was surely issued in response to widespread frustration and outrage stemming from the university’s decision to choose Kylie Broderick — an instructor who promotes the view that Israel should not exist — to teach a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Broderick, the graduate student instructor, uses the term “Zionist dirtbags”; demands “everyone at UNC … boycott Israeli products”; and declares that Palestinians are the only legitimate side in the conflict.
Some Jewish students at UNC are not registering for classes related to Israel because of the hostility they face from instructors. And non-Jewish students who do sign up are being fed propaganda and activism instead of facts and alternative viewpoints.
A UNC faculty member echoed the concerns of many, stating: “While this statement is a step in the right direction, it is completely shallow if the administration cannot or will not speak out against [instructor] Kylie Boderick’s vehement anti-Zionist, antisemitic statements that clearly target and discriminate against Jewish and Zionist students.”
UNC’s statement on confronting antisemitism comes just a week after Congressman Ted Budd (R-NC) sent a letter to UNC System President Peter Hans, stating, “I want to express my concern over repeated antisemitic activity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”
UNC’s statement also follows the American Center for Law & Justice’s recent fling of a Title VI complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
Indeed, UNC has a long-standing culture of extreme anti-Israel bias and antisemitism.
The ADL explains that BDS is antisemitic because “it denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination.” In a recent statement, the American Association of University Professors expressed their “opposition to BDS,” explaining, “We oppose all academic boycotts, including an academic boycott of Israel, on the grounds that such boycotts violate the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.”
In 2021, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill endorsed a statement accusing Israel of “the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza” and “raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque.” Such inflammatory language leads to violence against Jews in America and worldwide.
In 2019, following an antisemitism scandal, UNC entered into a Resolution Agreement with the Department of Education’s OCR, requiring UNC “to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment.”
By choosing a known antisemitic instructor to teach a course on Israel — and by remaining silent when a large group of instructors declared their intent to use their teaching positions to promote BDS “in the classroom” — Chancellor Guskiewicz and UNC officials have failed to adhere to the Resolution Agreement.
Guskiewicz’s new promise to counter antisemitism follows a failed 2019 “Countering Hate Initiative,” in which the university chose faculty members to help lead the effort who themselves espouse hate and antisemitism.
For example, in 2019, Elyse Crystall — from UNC’s English & Comparative Literature Department — was chosen to lead one of the Countering Hate Initiative programs, even though she is well known for promoting antisemitism. The year before, Crystall shocked the Jewish community by sending an antisemitic email opposing a candidate for city council because the candidate attends a local synagogue.
Crystall also wrote a public letter alleging Israel is “experimenting on the captive population under military occupation,” and has “tested” weapons on Palestinians. Crystall even signed the letter using one of her UNC credentials.
Chancellor Guskiewicz needs to initiate an independent investigation — from outside the university — to examine the longstanding, systemic animus towards the Jewish homeland and its Jewish supporters on campus, and recommend structural changes. And, unlike in the past, the chancellor must avoid choosing antisemites to help lead the effort.