Saturday, May 6, 2017

San Francisco State University Toxic Climate for Jewish Students: the mainstream media catches on

Recently a series of articles and op-eds has appeared in the J- the Jewish News of  Northern California documenting the toxic campus climate for Jewish students at San Francisco State University.

From Ollie Benn, the executive director of San Francisco Hillel, who believes that the university must acknowledge the problem, make a strong statement against it, and then make an better effort to incorporate Hillel and the Jewish community into the campus

S.F. Hillel director: SFSU must reject intolerance against Jewish students

First, the university must acknowledge the problem. Large systems do not effectively change without their leadership using language giving recognition to wrongs.

In the 1990s, an S.F. State commission found that Jewish students had experienced “bigotry, stereotyping, intolerance and insensitivity” from institutions across campus and that anti-Israel activity had “repeatedly” crossed the line into anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, events of the past year follow that historic pattern. The university cannot change without first taking the healing step of recognizing that systemic problems have re-emerged.

Second, the university must make a strong statement rejecting systemic intolerance against Jews. The recent “Know Your Rights Fair” debacle should have played out quite differently. Students will always push the envelope, and sometimes make wrongful or even malicious decisions. But once the Palestinian student group decided to shut Hillel out of the event (which, ironically, was to discuss the marginalization of domestic minorities), the organizing committee, composed of sponsoring students, faculty and administration, should have stepped in and rejected this move.

As extensive reporting now makes clear, this is part of a troubling pattern at S.F. State. We are sure a university as committed to equality as S.F. State will no longer allow the abrogation of Jewish students’ rights to speak, listen and participate in campus life. A strong public statement rejecting systemic intolerance against Jews should not be difficult to adopt: In March 2016, the regents of the University of California unanimously passed a statement of Principles Against Intolerance; UC Irvine recently adapted and implemented those principles for its own campus; and CSU, Long Beach has committed to becoming a model of “Inclusive Excellence.”

S.F. State should follow suit. It must reject the festering culture of “anti-normalization,” instead affirming that the core values of a university include respectful debate and dialogue, and the ability to hear the opinions of others.

Third, S.F. State must better integrate Hillel into the fabric of university life. Across the country, Hillels have entered into partnerships with their universities on everything from career services to dialogue groups to housing issues to social justice causes to interfaith prayer to mental health training.....

Read it all here

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