January 6, 2021
Via Email: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunil Kumar, Ph.D.
Provos and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street, 265 Garland Hall
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Dear Senior Vice President and Provost Kumar,
We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit Israel education organization, to follow up on our December 3, 2020 and December 16, 2020 attached letters regarding [name redacted], a graduate researcher and teaching assistant who allegedly posted a series of racist and antisemitic statements on a Twitter account indicating an intent to penalize and discriminate against her Jewish, Israeli and Zionist students.
As you are likely aware, this issue was made public yesterday by another organization. Once it was leaked, we made our letters to you publicly available.
We thank you for your December 23, 2020 email acknowledging that you are “aware of an incident of alleged anti-Semitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on [your] campus.” We commend you for your aspiration to “take seriously any and all allegations of discrimination, harassment, or other misconduct – including anti-Semitism.”
Out of continued concern to protect Jewish and Israeli students on campus, we ask you to please address or clarify the following:
· Please give assurance that [Redacted] is not teaching during the spring 2021 semester;
· Please provide a list of all classes that [Redacted] has previously served as a teaching assistant at Johns Hopkins University;
· Please confirm that there was oversight provided over [Redacted]’s grading during the fall 2020 semester;
· Please clarify that steps are being taken to ensure that [Redacted]’s students in previous semesters were not harmed by [Redacted]’s possible discriminatory grading; and
· Please enumerate the steps that the university is taking to send a clear message to the campus community that there is no place for antisemitism at Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, we urge you to issue a statement to reassure the public that you are treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves. There is ample precedent for university leaders to take public steps to assure the community and show leadership following campus incidents of antisemitism. We believe some examples of how other universities have handled similar antisemitic incidents on campus would be helpful.
Recently, at Florida State University, the administration responded to an incident of antisemitism by: recognizing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism; creating a task force to review Jewish student life on campus and develop recommendations to administration; instituting annual training for staff surrounding antisemitism, religious discrimination and fostering a more inclusive campus environment for its Jewish community; updating the university calendar to include all significant religious holidays with a commitment to increase understanding of the holidays across the campus; reestablishing a Jewish Student Union and creating a Jewish Alumni Network for enhanced support and educational resources; and committing to hiring a new Director of Student Equity and Inclusion.
Likewise, at the University of California, Merced, a teaching professor who, like [Redacted], espoused antisemitic rhetoric on his personal Twitter account, recently came to light. In response, the university has launched a full investigation into possible violations of university policy based on the teaching professor’s conduct; committed to developing programming for the spring semester addressing “free speech, hate speech and anti-Semitism in academia and promotes ways to challenge discriminatory insinuations when and wherever they emerge within the university community;” and announced upcoming policy updates “that make clear the rights and the responsibilities of [their] community members to adhere to all applicable policies and expectations against intolerance, particularly when using social media.”
There is also precedent for disciplining both tenured and non-tenured faculty for professional misconduct in similar situations. At Rutgers University, tenured professor Michael Chikindas was disciplined by the administration after he posted antisemitic rants on his Facebook page. Among other disciplinary measures, Chikindas was barred from teaching required classes, was removed from his role as director of a university institute and was required to take remedial courses. At Oberlin College, the administration removed Professor Joy Karega from her professorship after she spread antisemitic conspiracy theories online.
Like these other universities facing similar challenges, we encourage you to condemn publicly the antisemitism on campus and take other proactive steps to show that Johns Hopkins University has no place for hate and discrimination, particularly by faculty charged with educating students and ensuring their academic future.
Thank you for your continued time and attention to this important matter. We are happy to work with your administration in any way that you feel would be helpful. We look forward to your response by Friday, January 15, 2021.
CEO & Co-Founder
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department
StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism