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UMN’s Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies named fifth most ‘Jew-hating’ department

The report was compiled by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which ranked 10 academic departments in the U.S.
Students+and+faculty+respond+to+the+accusations+outlined+in+the+report.
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Students and faculty respond to the accusations outlined in the report.

In a report released in April, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) named the “Top Ten Jew-Hating Academic Departments,” which reside at leading universities across the nation. 

The University of Minnesota’s Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies (GWSS), is ranked 5th on the report because of a statement they released Oct. 13.

The report calls on the presidents and administrators of each named university to launch an immediate investigation to determine whether these departments have violated the Title VI rights of Jewish students.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Sara Dogan, who compiled the report, said the DHFC looked into the extent to which these departments were violating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s 2016 working definition of antisemitism.

Dogan said the DHFC also looked into the extent to which academic departments downplayed the actions of Hamas in creating this conflict and how they treated Israeli civilians. 

“The GWSS described the massacre as Hamas fighters who ‘took down border fences,’ and that they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, scholars and organizers,” Dogan said. 

Dogan added academic departments should not be issuing political statements or taking sides on political issues. 

Dogan said she conducted some of her research through the AMCHA Initiative, which tracks antisemitism on campuses throughout the country.

The DHFC has launched a network of projects giving anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies a platform to project hate and misinformation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). 

The SPLC said the DHFC targets students, professors and administrators by compiling lists of those with dissenting views. 

In an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily, GWSS said, “Since Oct. 7, accusations of antisemitism have become an easy way to isolate politically active spaces for learning.”

According to the GWSS statement, the DHFC’s attempts to ban gender and ethnic studies are part of a larger effort to ban books about Black history, ban abortion and marginalize queer and trans people. 

The GWSS added the departments in the report “teach about the real history of the United States and its role as a global power and the history of attempts to suppress dissent.”

Richard Painter, a law professor who requested the U.S. Department of Education investigate concerns about antisemitism at the University, said DHFC Founder David Horowitz aligns himself with conservatives.

“A lot of Democrats are running scared of this issue,” Painter said. “So, the right wing of the Republican party is running with this.”

Painter said it is reasonable to criticize Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government, but that should not excuse antisemitic speech. 

“If you read that statement, which was issued shortly after Oct. 7, the GWSS did not once mention the fact the attack was the rape and murder of women and girls, and they sought to blame the attack on Israel,” Painter said. 

Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel left more than 1,100 dead, most of whom were civilians.

The statement was posted on a website funded by the University, according to Painter.

“If I wanted to talk to a faculty member, I would go to GWSS’s website and look under faculty,” Painter said. “That statement is on one of those same web pages, and I think that is a clear violation of Title VI.” 

Fae Hodges, an incoming third-year student and member of Students for a Democratic Society, disagrees with the DHFC’s assessment of the GWSS.

“I think the perspective shared in that letter is really focusing on the history of the situation and how this is an ongoing conflict that has escalated into an even more extreme and dangerous situation,” Hodges said.

Hodges added the report by the DHFC misunderstood the statement by GWSS.

“The faculty and students within the department have continued to share with me their view of Palestinian liberation as a future we’re fighting for where there is liberation, free movement and equal citizenship for all people, rather than the status quo where Palestinians are treated very differently and dehumanized,” Hodges said.

Hodges said it is clear to her that the GWSS’s goal is to eliminate human suffering and to uphold the right of Palestinians to live in their homeland and to have the right to self-determination.

“I think it’s really dangerous rhetoric to portray all pro-Palestinian people or calls for an end to violence in Palestine as antisemitic or exclusionary to anyone,” Hodges said. “It contributes to the narrative that Palestinian people or people who support Palestinian people are inherently violent.” 

According to Dogan, the DHFC’s primary goal with this report is to encourage administrators to crack down on antisemitism coming from the universities themselves.

“The bottom line is you cannot make statements discriminating against Jewish students or that take sides on controversial political issues on an official website of the University of Minnesota that’s paid for by Minnesota taxpayers,” Dogan said.

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  • KG
    Jun 30, 2024 at 8:53 am

    Hodges says that “GWSS’s goal is to … uphold the right of Palestinians to live in their homeland and to have the right to self-determination.” Well, no, it isn’t. GWSS is the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies department. It’s supposed to be what it says it is. Insofar as gender is concerned, Gaza and the West Bank was a dangerous place for the LGBTQ+ community even before October 7, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to UMN GWSS. The only pro-LGBTQ+ Palestinian organization found refuge and asylum in Israel because it was too dangerous for them in Gaza and the West Bank, and LGBTQ+ Palestinians routinely seek and are granted asylum in Israel. What about the rights of girls in Palestine, you ask? Regarding child marriage, UNRWA reports (based on the Palestinian Authorities own statistics) that as of the end of 2015, 23.7 per cent of the total married population in the Gaza Strip had gotten married before the age of 18. That is defined as child marriage. Have you heard of UMN GWSS demonstrating for the right of girls against forced child marriage in Gaza and the West Bank? Unfortunately, Hodges is sadly misguided and misinformed. GWSS department has been hijacked by radical pro-Hamas, pro-terrorist ideologues, and its agenda is diametrically opposed to real GWSS interests and safety.

  • focus
    Jun 13, 2024 at 12:54 pm

    Reading this article, it sounds like the DHFC is a cahoot of bullies who should be ignored:

    “The DHFC has launched a network of projects giving anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies a platform to project hate and misinformation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
    The SPLC said the DHFC targets students, professors and administrators by compiling lists of those with dissenting views.

    Richard Painter, a law professor who requested the U.S. Department of Education investigate concerns about antisemitism at the University, said DHFC Founder David Horowitz aligns himself with conservatives.
    “A lot of Democrats are running scared of this issue,” Painter said. “So, the right wing of the Republican party is running with this.” Painter said it is reasonable to criticize Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government…”

    Let’s focus on healing and equity work for everyone, not bizzare attempts to measure hate.

  • Ethan
    Jun 13, 2024 at 11:52 am

    The David Horowitz Freedom Center is a conservative anti-Islam foundation. You said so yourself: “The SPLC said the DHFC targets students, professors and administrators by compiling lists of those with dissenting views.”

    This feels like lazy journalism. Will you ask the KKK what they think the most anti-white college departments are? Maybe you could work at correcting already debunked myths like this lie that Painter continues to tell: “the GWSS did not once mention the fact the attack was the rape and murder of women and girls, and they sought to blame the attack on Israel,” Painter said.

    Here’s some light reading about “israeli” torture (from 2008): amnesty.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/mde150402008en.pdf