Letter to the Editor: President Bradley releases additional statement on SJP protest

Vassar has since 1861 been a bold and pioneering institution of higher education. It is a place that aspires to set the bar for the liberal arts and demonstrate the very best environment in which to work, study and live. We know from decades of research that the culture of an organization matters to the quality of learning, and hence, I take great interest in how each of us influences the social and intellectual fabric of this place we and our alumnae/i have called home.

Last week’s event in which students chanted at an invited speaker was unacceptable. The student leadership had committed to upholding our practices of peaceful protest, including not disrupting the speaker. They broke that promise. Furthermore, protestors chose a chant that can be understood to be calling for the eradication of the State of Israel and is highly intimidating to Israelis and Jews, and directed it to an Israeli speaker discussing his perspective on Indigenous Jews. In the days following the incident, I have spent time speaking with and learning from students, faculty, alumnae/i and experts in the field, and I now believe the use of the chant—in this way, directed at this speaker—crossed the line into anti-Semitism. We have begun our adjudication processes, which by federal law are confidential.

On this campus, we do not tolerate anti-Semitism, hate speech or discrimination of any kind. I am grateful that after the 15-minute disruption, the invited speaker was able to continue and deliver his presentation to an engaged audience of students, faculty and administrators.

To sustain the intellectual community that is Vassar, we support an environment and structures in which free speech flourishes. Even controversial discussions will best confer learning and understanding when they are free from discrimination of all kinds.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Vassar College

6 Comments

  1. I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Bradley for the clarification of her earlier remarks and recognition that the chant directed at speaker Hen Mazzig by members of SJP was unequivocally antisemitic and that expressions calling for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel will not be tolerated at Vassar College. Notwithstanding SJP’s stated refusal to entertain any perspective other than that of the Palestinians, I urge all members of the Vassar Community to educate themselves as to the legitimate claims, concerns and fears of the Jewish people with respect to the Mid East conflict.
    Megan Tallmer
    Class of 1973

  2. Ms Bradley is basically toeing the line laid out by powerful pro Israeli alumni.. Show us Ms Bradley, a single Federal ruling in the history of this country where chanting that slogan is/was adjuducated as anti Semitic.

    Ms Bradley went on an entire tour of Israel, but couldn’t get herself to utter a single word in criticism of that countries apartheid policies. But now she suddenly finds some great moral clarity to label a long standing Palestinian chant as anti semitisn ? Really ?

    To the students who’re going. to face the wrath of Ms Bradley’s new found selective morality, I feel sad for you. My only suggestion is to do everything you can to protect your Federal civil rights. Vassar can’t strip you off them despite what Ms Bradley thinks of your chant

    • That’s because Israel has no “apartheid” policies. You need to do some research about both Israel and apartheid. Come back when you’ve learned the difference

    • It kind of undermines your argument that you used an anti-Semitic trope in accusing “powerful pro-Israeli alumni” of forcing Bradley’s hand.

  3. As one of no doubt many others who had expressed extreme displeasure regarding President Bradley’s earlier statement, I must now commend President Bradley for her new, strong and courageous statement in support of civility on campus. She has shown herself to be a real leader.

    Dialogue and education both require civility. Civility cannot exist when students disrupt or interfere with speakers invited to campus to speak on campus. Civility cannot exist where student demonstrators employ bigoted comments to make their points.

    The Arab Israeli dispute requires careful study, not slogans shouted an invited speaker. The historical record does not support simple-minded claims of the type made by disruptive groups such as SJP. That there are many students who fall for SJP’s claims is unfortunate. With President Bradley’s courageous stand, I can only hope and pray that we can now begin to see a college campus that, like when I attended Vassar, was able to have students passionately, but politely, debate contentious issues without name-calling, interruption or bigotry.

    To quote Senator Sanders: “I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution.” (“Fighting antisemitism is at the heart of the left’s struggle against oppression,” by Bernie Sanders, The Guardian, November 12, 2019, at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/12/antisemitism-left-jews-multiracial-democracy). Senator Sanders above asserts one part of understanding the Arab Israeli dispute that only the most simple-minded analysis, of the type that SJP employs, denies.

    Again, I very much appreciate what President Bradley has written. It is a great step forward for Vassar.

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