Oberlin Professor Retained Despite Controversial Facebook Postings

1456789323213We have another case of a professor who was put under scrutiny for her postings on social media. Joy Karega, an assistant professor of “rhetoric and composition” at Oberlin College posted bizarre claims on Facebook blaming Jews and Israel for 9/11 as well as ISIS. The college however has decided that such postings are protected and it is correct in doing so. However, once again, there is a concern over how colleges treat such controversies depending on the views and conclusions of the academics or students.

1456780943903Karega reportedly posted controversial statements after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, including a picture showing an Islamic State terrorist with a Star of David tattoo pulling off a mask, exposing the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She added “This ain’t even hard. They unleashed Mossad on France and it’s clear why.” She explained that the massacre was part of a conspiracy to stop French support for Palestinians. She also posted a statement that Islamic State is not Islamic, but rather “a CIA and Mossad operation” and even frustration that “there’s too much information out here for the general public not to know this.”

Then there is her view that “Israeli and Zionist Jews” orchestrated the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

As wacky and weird these comments may be, they were made by an academic outside of their classes and express her political and historical viewpoint. Nevertheless, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center has called the speech ‘the worst kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric” and insisted that “it is not acceptable for the dean to hide behind academic freedom and claim this is freedom of speech.” She added that Karega “needs to be thrown off campus immediately.”

It is in fact free speech and there are academic protections for unpopular speech. The college is right. However, there is a growing concern over the test being applied to academics based on the content of such speech. The controversy raises again the question of a double standard in controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. Recently, we discussed a case at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa. We recently saw a student suspended for a joke on Yik Yak that was denounced as racist. Another student was fired for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Oberlin is facing increasing criticism from Jewish groups and students who have objected to the advocacy on campus by the movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel (BDS). Various students organizations support the BDS and the Jewish students have objected that the movement “demonizes the Jewish state” and creates a threatening and unwelcoming environment for them. Such objections miss the point of educational institutions as forums for a wide array of different views and belief systems. Just as the BDS advocates should be free speach, so too are Jewish groups opposing the BDS. What is describes as a “toxic climate” is actually a free speech climate where people are free to speak their minds and answer the opposing views of others.

marvin_mainOberlin College President Marvin Krislov embraced those values in a letter in discussing the necessity of free speech at Oberlin and other academic institutions:

“I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust. As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Regardless of the reason for spreading these materials, they cause pain for many people — members of our community and beyond. . . . Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community. The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are not just principles to which we turn to face these challenges, but also the very practices that ensure we can develop meaningful responses to prejudice . . .

This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive. Those discussions — in classrooms, residence halls, libraries, and across our campus and town — take place every day here. They are a vital part of the important work of liberal arts education at Oberlin and in our country.”

As for Karega, she says that the criticism of her has given her material for a new book and is simply part of the “antisemitism call-out culture.” She has further suggested that the criticism is racist”

“… I can generate articles for days on what I can describe as “antisemitism call-out culture” and some of its accompanying practices. I don’t have to tell some of you that these recent activities in my own professional life have handed me a LARGE body of data (emails, voicemail messages, tweets, Facebook inbox messages, etc.) that will shed light on and provide insight into how and to what extent anti-Blackness rhetorics show up in antisemitic call-out culture and practices.”

Once again, Karega’s views are not the issue, but rather her right to hold and speak opposing views. However, the same standard should be applied to professors and students being punished for their views under ill-defined “hate speech” rules.

47 thoughts on “Oberlin Professor Retained Despite Controversial Facebook Postings”

  1. Steve Fotos

    First of all Germans speaking out against the mistreatment of Jews before and during WW2 was not the issue and would not have changed anything. The Jew has been the Christian world’s whipping boy since the crucifixion. It is human nature to regard anything different as inferior or dangerous, perhaps even nature’s way of defending a species. WW2 started with Napoleon when the disparate princedoms, kingdoms, etc were united for administrative purposes and with the decline of the Holy Roman Empire, the Northern Germanic peoples, now united, were included in subduing France. Shortly after the Prussians whopped France on two occasions. Then they tried to do it again in WW1. Having been beaten and humiliated but with a greater population, greater industrial base, and more advanced railway system, it was inevitable that it happen again.

    Throughout history peoples have tried to expand beyond their borders. Rome, Great Britain, France, and then Germany. History shows us that one way or another it does get flushed from the system. With Germany and Japan the rise was rapid and the fall was abrupt. With Great Britain and France it took longer and they still retain visions of greatness and superiority, the fuel for dominance. With the US and Russia and soon China we have a different world stage. It is obvious that military dominance only goes so far. It is probably accepted that invading other countries is not the answer. Germany lost WW2, not because of the US participation but because it allowed 3/4 of its military might to be absorbed by invading Russia. Japan lost WW2, not because of the US but because it allowed 2/3 of its military might to be absorbed by invading China. The US has failed to realize this as its forays have been on smaller scales: Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq. The fact of the matter is the era of invading another country to change it is pretty much over. Isolate them and offer assistance. Let evolution do its job. The world can even make the officials of backward nations the heads of prominent UN posts. Look at Saudi Arabia. Look at the UAE, almost elected to lead FIFA but then there’s Trump. So much for trying to make sense of it all.

    1. That is quite the history tour. I detect a certain bias in the summary, but hey, you enjoyed the chance to expound on a few centuries I am sure.

  2. Mr. Turley discounts the damage that is done by retaining this clearly anti-Semitic Professor. Free Speech does not include an employer’s obligation to tolerate expressions outside of their employment that damages the reputation of the organization. I think he evades the question by clearly not stating that the institution has a right to fire her. She is as blatant an anti-Semite as any member of the Nazi party was in the 1920’s or 30’s.

    There is no Constitutional defense against being fired in this case. More importantly, there is no societal good to be procured by retaining her. Had a greater number of German institutions been quicker to defend their Jewish citizens by dismissing the merchants of Nazi hatred, much trouble could have been avoided.

    How does Turley defend a similar flaccid response today?

  3. If Antonin Scalia was alive at the time of the Framing of the Constitution, he would not have been considered for any judge job. As an Originalist he must know that he is a Sicilian who is disqualified. I wonder what Saint Peter said when he hit the Pearly Gates for the interview. But, he is dead and cannot defend himself on this blog. Let him rest in peace. Or pieces.

  4. CWD: Hah, you forgot this important part of the letter in the link you provided:

    “Being a swarthy, son of poor Sicilian immmigrants, [sic] and intent on becoming an all-American white man, he [Antonin Scalia] was consumed with putting as much space between himself and Negroes as possible, and becoming an honorary member of the WASP elite.”

    Here’s Quentin Tarantino’s take on this subject from “True Romance” in this scene featuring Christopher Walken (Vincent Coccotti) and Dennis Hopper (Clifford Worley). Look for James Gandolfini (Virgil) in the clip:

  5. @CWD

    My BFF, Fabia Sheen, Esq., an attorney, told me that most of the blacks in her law classes had no business being there. Not all, but most. They got there through down-lo affirmative action and or diversity crap. And, most of them end up having to take the bar exam several times. A lot of her black clients will not go to a black lawyer. They want a “white lawyer” because they have little or no faith in black attorneys. That lack of faith seems to be justified.

    I guess the people who grade the bar exams are racisss!, too. Scalia probably did his black students a favor by holding them to the same standards as the whites. Remember, 80% of black kids are born into single parent homes, and black mothers “are the worst stewards of children in the universe.” ‘member that story here about the lying a$$ black pre-law student a few days ago?” ‘Member the sorry excuse for an attorney that is the black prosecutor in Baltimore?

    Black America has been turned into a sewer just so that White Liberal Democrats can stay in power. Been that way since the 60’s. Why would any of expect smart people to come out of that mess?


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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