College presidents decry anti-Semitism

P By Ben August

The Daily Princetonian
Princeton University

pRINCETON, N.J., Oct. 7 – More than 300 college presidents have endorsed a controversial statement condemning intolerance of and intimidation toward Jews. But the statement, which ran as an ad in Monday’s New York Times, does not carry the endorsement of Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman.

The statement was initially written and circulated by a group of former and current college presidents in response to “a series of incidents on campuses last spring in which Jewish students were targeted,” according to an American Jewish Committee press release.

The statement begins by commenting generally about academic integrity and the importance of a campus environment free of intimidation and harassment. Later, however, the statement refers to recent incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“In the past few months, students who are Jewish or supporters of Israel’s right to exist – Zionists – have received death threats and threats of violence,” the statement said.

The inclusion of a specific reference to Jews and Zionists has received criticism from those who say it is unfair to highlight intimidation of Jews, but not that of other groups.

University Director of Communications Lauren Robinson-Brown said President Tilghman decided not to sign the statement because “it is not inclusive enough.”

It “just mentions intimidation against Jewish students, and they are not the only students who might face intimidation,” Robinson-Brown said.

Though Harvard University President Lawrence Summers recently made strong statements that there exists a troubling rise in anti-Semitism, he also chose not to sign the statement. Neither Harvard’s president’s office nor its representatives returned calls for comment.

The AJC, which helped circulate the statement to college presidents and published today’s ad in The New York Times, takes the position that there is reason to highlight intolerance toward Jews.

“Jews face special intimidation,” Ken Stern said, who heads a task force on anti-Semitism for the AJC.

He cited recent incidents at University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State and Concordia College in Montreal as examples of specific threats faced by Jews.

At Concordia, Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to cancel his appearance after protesters broke windows, Stern said.

At Berkeley, vandalism, sit-ins and a sense of “escalating tension and raw anger” disquieted the campus last April, the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif., reported.

Stern also said Jews felt they were putting their grades at risk by taking pro-Israel stances in certain classes and that some Orthodox Jews felt they were putting themselves at risk by wearing yarmulkes on campus.

The AJC withheld the list of presidents who signed the statement until publication in The New York Times Monday morning.