campus beat

Jewish college profs discuss hostile campuses at House hearing

One professor said she’s planning to leave academia as a result of the harassment and discrimination she has faced on campus

Grace Yoon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Pro-Palestinian students at UCLA campus set up encampment in support of Gaza and protest the Israeli attacks in Los Angeles, California, United States on May 01, 2024.

Two Jewish university professors, speaking at a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, discussed the hostile environments they and other Jewish faculty have faced on college campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

The professors, Brian Keating of the University of California, San Diego, and Dafna Golden of Mt. San Antonio College outside of Los Angeles, recounted their experiences with antisemitism and anti-Israel demonstrations, as well as those of their colleagues.

Golden said that she’s aiming to leave academia and potentially move to Israel in response to the harassment and discrimination she said she faced on campus, which she said began after she raised concerns about a screening of an anti-Israel film.

She said that a fellow professor began a campaign of harassment against her, spreading falsehoods and urging students to harass and boycott her classes as well, a situation she said effectively forced her off campus into holding virtual-only classes, harming her professional relationships, and had made it impossible to do her job.

She said both deans and the school’s human resources department were unhelpful and unsupportive, dismissing a complaint she filed because a student witness to the other professor’s behavior was not willing to testify about it.

What Golden described as a non-political display on the changing borders of Israel she set up at the school’s library also came under criticism and was removed due to student complaints.

“Like so many of my Jewish colleagues at colleges across the country, the general antisemitic hostile environment turned to focus on me,” Golden said. “This hostile environment has significantly impacted my professional duties and relationships. As a result of the toxic atmosphere and severe impact on my mental health and my professional standing, and the refusal of my employer to protect me in my workplace, I have decided to transition out of academia as soon as possible.”

Keating noted that a sword and flammable material were found at UCSD’s encampment, posing safety risks. But he said that issues with antisemitism date back before Oct. 7; over a year ago, a swastika made of feces was found on the UCSD campus and the school has been home to a variety of anti-Israel activity, which he said university leadership had failed to meaningfully address.

“For decades, UC [San Diego] has not been a safe space for Jewish and Israeli students, staff and employees,” Keating said.

“There is an environment on campus that is almost orgiastic, of violence, of hatred toward the State of Israel,” Keating continued, addressing an annual anti-Israel protest at UCSD. “It’s our principles of community that are continually being violated.”

Keating also highlighted challenges faced by graduate student workers, represented by a union group that declared a strike and walkouts to protest Israel.

Melissa Emrey-Arras, the Government Accountability Office’s director of education, workforce and income security, also testified, highlighting that the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have failed to properly implement GAO recommendations on handling religious discrimination.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is, by policy, expected to transmit any employment discrimination cases it receives to the EEOC within 30 days, Arras said, but a study found that it had failed to do so in nearly three-quarters of cases in 2022. She said such delays both allow discrimination to continue and can make it more difficult to investigate cases.

Despite resource and staffing constraints, Arras said that the Department of Education has sufficient resources to implement the GAO’s recommendations and she urged Congress to pressure the two agencies to do so.

Arras said that there are also likely significant underreporting issues.

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