January 14, 2022
USC President Carol Folt announced a series of measures on January 13 to combat antisemitism on campus in light of recent controversies.
In a letter to the campus Jewish community, Folt acknowledged that “recent antisemitic and anti-Zionist posts on social media” have “challenged USC’s reputation as a supportive and welcoming environment for our Jewish community, and highlighted the need for us to bolster the ways in which we support Jewish life on campus.” The posts are an apparent reference to Yasmeen Mashayekh, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Student Senator at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Viterbi Graduate Student Association. The posts included Mashayekh tweeting that she wanted to “kill every motherf—ing Zionist.”
The measures included the establishment of the Advisory Committee for Jewish Life at USC to review proposals for ameliorating antisemitism, including a campus climate survey and identifying “a university-wide position that demonstrates our commitment to fighting antisemitism in all its forms.” Additionally, the university will ensure “Jewish representation and inclusion in our university-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, and supplementing our bias and harassment training protocol for all students, faculty, and staff to include antisemitism.”
“Through these efforts, we are continuing to strengthen USC’s commitment to our Jewish students,” Folt later wrote.
Various Jewish groups weighed in.
“USC Hillel welcomes and celebrates this concrete display of support from our university leadership,” Dave Cohn, the Hillel’s executive director, wrote in a letter to community members. “At USC we are privileged to engage in ongoing collaboration with numerous university partners around these issues. We feel heartened that USC continues to support a Jewish community that is bursting with energy and enjoys a network of resources to rival any campus worldwide.”
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Los Angeles Regional Director Ariella Lowenstein, who will be a part of the committee, said in a statement, “We at ADL believe it is so important to both call out antisemitism when it rears its ugly head, but also to act proactively and take the difficult discussions with university administration and community leaders to prevent incidents from occurring again. As a USC graduate program alumnus, this role is particularly close to home. I am proud of my education, and I continue to be proud of my alma mater as it tackles antisemitism and bigotry in all its forms to create a safer and more inclusive campus.”
American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hirschhaut said in a statement to the Journal that the measures are “a long-awaited and welcome development. Given the global stature of USC, it is not an exaggeration to say that the world was watching, and awaiting, this blueprint for action. In both depth and scope, it acknowledges the many faces of antisemitism and that the effort to confront this scourge must engage all members of the campus community, be ongoing, and demonstrate imagination, courage, and resolve. Both current and prospective students and their families should be reassured by USC’s commitment to ensuring a safe, respectful, and welcoming climate for Jewish students. President Folt’s leadership sets an example to be emulated on campuses across the country.”
StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein also applauded the new USC measures in a statement to the Journal. “These efforts to ensure that Jewish and Zionist students feel safe and supported on campus are necessary for any school with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we call on other universities to follow suit,” Rothstein said.
“Although the adoption of these steps took longer than we had hoped, these actions are a step in the right direction, and we applaud all the faculty, students, and community organizations who took a stand against anti-Jewish bigotry. We expect that the actions proposed by USC’s new Advisory Committee on Jewish Life and the student-focused campus pledge will reflect additional steps requested by the Jewish and Zionist community, including the adoption of the consensus-driven IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, to create a campus environment free from all forms of antisemitism.”
An End Jew Hatred spokesperson said in a statement, “USC, to its credit, announced a creative solution aimed at improving life for Jews on campus. As Jews, we much prefer to build up rather than tear down. We will closely monitor the implementation of the reforms and hope they lead to a more inclusive campus that respects the rights of the Jewish community as a minority.”
Judea Pearl, Chancellor Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation President, tweeted that the new measures are a monumental “achievement of 65 USC professors who, unlike the established campus leadership, did not try to hush-hush this Zionophobic incident.” The professors signed a letter on December 1 urging university leadership to “publicly and explicitly rebuke” Mashayekh’s tweets and let “Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students” know they’re welcome on campus.
“However, the professors’ key question: ‘Are Zionists welcome on this campus?’ is not answered in Folt’s Letter,” Pearl added. “Moreover, past ‘Advisory Committees’ have served as cover-ups for inaction. Their effectiveness depends on whether Folt staffs them with professors from the 65, or with the usual hush-hushers. Ditto Jewish representation on DEI Board, usually reserved for hush-hushers.”
Others were more critical.
“What is the bloody point of having these inclusion requirements, seminars, and statements of condemnation if you’re not going to properly punish those that are espousing this hatred against Jews?!” Stop Antisemitism tweeted, calling for Mashayekh to be expelled.
Social Lite Creative CEO and Founder Emily Schrader, a USC alumnus, also tweeted sarcastically, “I’m sure the Jews will feel really safe in the DEI efforts at @USC with Yasmeen Mashayekh around who wants to kill all of them…”
Mashayekh has claimed that her tweets should be viewed in the context that under international law, “Palestinians have a right to resist occupation of their land” and that the “smear campaigns have subjected me to FBI visits, unlawful punishment by the university by stripping me of my position as a freshman academy coach, unwarranted media attention, and mental and emotional abuse.”
Gerard Filitti, senior counsel for The Lawfare Project, also said in a statement: “Jew-hatred does not occur in a vacuum, and it does not grow without being fueled. USC has received over $67 million from countries in the Middle East – countries like Qatar, which maintains strong relationships with terrorist groups like Hamas, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood, and promotes antisemitism and anti-Americanism. Because USC has not been transparent about how this money is being used, we don’t know the extent to which this foreign funding has been influencing the policies and actions of the university.”
Read the full article here.