(Merced, CA -- December 28, 2020) -- The StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism wrote to UC Merced on December 24, 2020 expressing dismay after learning that Abbas Ghassemi, a teaching professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering department, posted a series of discriminatory and antisemitic statements and images on his Twitter account.
StandWithUs’ letter which was sent to Chancellor Dr. Juan Sanchez Munoz, Ph.D and Dr. Thomas Peterson Ph.D, Professor Emeritus and Chair (BIOE), noted that the professor apparently acted with an aggressive and pervasive animus toward Jews and Israelis—a protected minority on campus—while being responsible for grading the very students he appears to loathe. Furthermore, Ghassemi apparently identified himself on his Twitter account as a professor at UC Merced, thereby using Twitter to showcase his position at the university while espousing hatred toward Jews and Israelis. To protect Jewish and Israeli students from a hostile campus environment created by a professor who appears simultaneously to teach Jewish and Israeli students while posting antisemitic attacks against them, StandWithUs urged the administration to investigate this matter fully, and, if any violations of university values or policy are found, to impose immediate consequences.
“Professor Ghassemi used Twitter as an extended public platform at the university to promulgate hatred toward Jews and Israelis through classic antisemitism,” said Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO and co-founder. “This is not a simple matter of free speech. In addition to promoting a hateful environment on campus, this professor is responsible for the grades and academic success of students he appears to hate. University administrators have an ethical, if not legal obligation, to take all measures necessary to protect their students from any discrimination.”
The letter emphasized precedent for disciplining both tenured and non-tenured professors for professional misconduct through social media, pointing specifically to Rutgers University, Oberlin College and Babson College. "While we firmly believe that free speech and academic freedom are paramount constitutional values, so too is the responsibility of university leaders to use their own First Amendment rights to condemn hate and ensure a non-discriminatory academic environment for all of its students, including Jews and Israelis," Rothstein stated.
StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.
Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs on 5 continents, including the U.S., Israel, UK, Canada, South Africa and Brazil.
For the last 7 years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum).