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August 04, 2016


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"Academic freedom" - the excuse of the day for a certain ilk of bigots - is to promote ACADEMIC pursuits.

Accordingly, it seems strange to contemplate this privilege attaches to " extra-academic writing or social media posts."

The rule should be PRECISELY the opposite. There is no excuse for abusive or racist conduct in one's private life under the guise of "I'm a prof, I have a free pass."

The question is what standards of personal conduct are applicable in the academy. Just because someone is critical of Israel, for example, does not mean that person is a bigot. Often, however, the Jew hate is unmistakable, and, unfortunately, often it is tolerated.

The post above is sort of confused because, on the one hand, SL argues that extra academic writing is a suspect grounds for consequences in the academy, but, on the other hand, he seems to have a "relevancy standard" that would allow for such disciple if the extra academic writing is on a subject the academic teaches (or writes about?).

Muddled standards here. NO wonder this issue provokes such uncertainty and confusion.

How about this question? Do we welcome openly racist, prejudiced or bigoted persons in the academy? The answer, too frequently, appears to be: "yes, if the person is against white men, Israel or the Jews" but "no, if the person is against groups that the academy favors (I won't list them, for obvious reasons).

Let's see what the outcome is of this. My guess is Oberlin will pay dearly here.


If you're too nuts for Oberlin you're too nuts.


Mick wins the thread.


Deeply deeply weird thing to post - even if she is an anti-semite. Is she sane?

Steve L.

Others have raised the same question, Mack, but I think it is a mistake to dismiss virulent anti-Semitism, or any other form of racism, as mental illness. Plenty of sane people hold irrational beliefs about minorities, and Karega's form of anti-Jewish hostility is more common on the Left than many are willing to admit.

You would be surprised -- or maybe not -- at the number of people who believe that 9/11 was part of an Israeli plot. Amiri Baraka, who was far from insane, wrote:

“Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed./
Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the twin towers/
To stay at home that day/
Why did Sharon stay away.”

As to Karega, she remains much respected by some Oberlin students and faculty, even after publication of her Facebook post. A group of students wrote that "greatly admire [her] as a professor and activist." One of her colleagues wrote that she is a "dynamic writing teacher." These and other affirmations clearly demonstrate that Karega is "sane," which is something that I never questioned.

I wish that only unbalanced people adhered to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Finally, Karega's post should not be dismissed as "weird." Rather, it was hateful, as well as sadly typical of an all-too-common mindset.

Orin Kerr

I thought this passage from the professor's course syllabus in "Writing for Social Justice" was interesting and potentially relevant:

[P]olemical and agitation rhetorics are strategies that some social justice writers employ. As such, I will
not discourage their usage in your own writing. We will also examine in this course several iterations of these kinds of
rhetorics at work in the writings of social justice activists. Like all the other strategies we will explore in terms of social
justice writing, we will consider polemical and agitation rhetorics within the context of recontextualization. Working as a
facilitator for this course, I will treat this classroom space as a contact zone, and all work for this course — reading,
writing, and discussion activities — will be informed by this contact zone philosophy. Contact zones are often messy
spaces because they bring together through conflict, struggle, negotiation, and revision a variety of different social,
cultural, and political perspectives. Please be prepared to engage in these four processes — conflict, struggle,
negotiation, and revision.

confused by your post

A university's stakeholders should be fairly tolerant of "unpopular" (or worse) expression that is made off-campus or that is not clearly related to the person's role at the university. Much less tolerance is warranted if such expressions are made on-campus or are directly related to the person's role at the university.

If Professor Karega has only been shown to have expressed these type of ideas in social media setting and there have been no complaints from her students, then there SHOULD be no action against her by the faculty or the administration.

Whether the administration or faculty have the ability, as a legal matter, to get rid of Professor Karega for her repugnant expressions, is an interesting of the issue.


So, should a KKK member who teaches Calculus be just fine?


Oberlin provides for its students an "expert" who apparently believes in racism, bigotry, and irrational ignorance. Those in her department and field support her. Is any more evidence needed of the complete vacuity and worthlessness of certain sectors of the academy?



A comment above addressed your point, I think.

Does the legal academy welcome openly racist, prejudiced or bigoted persons? The answer, too frequently, appears to be: "yes," if the person is against middle aged white men, Israel or the Jews" but "no," if the person expresses even the slightest criticism of groups or members of groups that the academy favors (not listed, for obvious reasons), no matter how hateful such groups or individuals may be.

This reader is thrilled that SL has recognized that "anti-Jewish hostility is more common on the Left than many are willing to admit." Other quite clearly demonstrated biases, prejudices and, frankly, unlawful policies that disfavor the targets of "the Left" are also far to common and tolerated.

The question above about KKK membership reveals the issue: the legal academy wouldn't tolerate the Grand Wizard teaching Calculus, but starts splitting hairs when it comes to hating and practicing hate against other disfavored groups.

This is the "group think" that is so prevalent now in academia, and so detrimental to intellectual honesty.


One of the things that is so depressing about the whole debate when I read her post is that there is room for an interesting historical debate - my late father was in fact considering writing a book about it, he was jokingly going to call "Supping with Too Short a Spoon" bout the role of intelligence services and governments in unwisely promoting various groups. The other joke is that "the relationship between A and B is like the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster."

It is fairly well known - and indeed retired Mossad people ruefully admit that Hamas was very much an Israeli creation - that Mossad provided financial and other support at its inception because they thought it would undermine the PLO and that as a religiously based movement Hamas would be easier to deal with. Whoops!

The CIA, working with the Saudis and Pakistan was heavily involved in creating what became Al Queda, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when they were heroes for the US right (including the religious right who just loved their devotion to God, Allah and Sharia back in the 80s. Actually, they were initially pretty keen on the Taliban too.) The Soviets, with the Chinese helped Pol Pot to power (and the Soviets did in fact have a lot to do with breaking the story - in part because the Brezhnev regime was genuinely appalled - but they made sure to put the blame on the Chinese alone.) We all know about the CIA and the Pinochet regime, but the bombing of Latellier in Sheridan Circle was many people think, in part a message to the Reagan administration. The French had good reasons to know about (a) Pol Pot (his master's thesis laid it all out, a bit like Mein Kampf), and (b) Khomeini - and what their likely intentions were.

These are hard and serious issues that ought to be discussed - they raise serious questions about the judgment of the governments involved, and there are lessons to learn. There are hard historical questions you can ask about terrorism - it did in fact work for the nascent Israel - and in 1918-21 it worked for the IRA (and what exactly was the French Resistance and other movements backed by the Allies in WW II); for all sorts of reasons we pretend that it does not, but it is an interesting conundrum, demanding that the Palestinians renounce tactics that Irgun used, while ignoring the success of those tactics in 1945-49. Indeed one could go back to the American war of independence and ask difficult questions about the activities of some of the American forces at that time. Part of the awkwardness of the entire debate is that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. One of the huge hidden issues in Ireland is around the desire of so many to think positively of the rebels of 1916 and the IRA of 1918-21, but then deplore the Provisional IRA or the Real IRA of today, and the complicated efforts to distinguish one from the other.

But when you introduce anti-semitism into any discussion the way this nincompoop - or nut - did, the debate cannot happen. I move back and forth between Europe and the US - but in Europe in certain circles, when you point out that the debate about Palestine and Israel is polluted by racism in general - people nod approvingly, until you point out that a large part of that debate is anti-semitism, where upon they go nuts! The far left gets particularly angry when you say that the Palestinian cause is damaged by the presence of so many antisemites in its ranks, while bizarrely they rant on about racism among supporters of Israel. Yet, the same left-wing critics of Israel in discussion quite comfortably fall straight into anti-semitic stereotypes - and become screaming furious if you point the tropes out.

And by the way, having been in the UK during the Brexit vote - Racism (or all types) was a very big factor in the Leave vote. As one colleague (English) put it, it was "get the wogs out, 24/7 for 3 weeks that won it for leave." Now the Brexiteers are desperately trying to argue that racism and xenophobia had nothing to do with it. Right! What was disturbing to many people in the UK, especially the non-English is that so many people hold really quite appalling views.

Alexander Tsesis

To my mind Oberlin's decision to suspend and investigate Karega is required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Whether Steve is correct that Karega did no more than engage in antisemitic "extra-academic writing or social media posts" or had expressed her views on campus, in classroom, or at other college events in a way that excluded Jewish students, will presumably be discovered through the faculty investigation of her case. She has an attorney and, from what I've read here and elsewhere, appears to be given procedural safeguards and an opportunity to respond. This process is particularly important for Oberlin to undertake under Title VI to determine whether Karega had fostered a hostile environment on campus; thereby, Oberlin can best avoid an Office of Civil Rights or Department of Justice Investigating. By suspending her pending the outcome of the investigation, Oberlin avoids the possibility of continued violation(s) under Title VI. If her suspension is viewed as persecution, that would be no surprise, given that antisemites often turn instigator into victim, and in fact did so in this case, with many openly supporting her even before the investigation was underway.

confused by your post

Orin, thanks for posting that. Reading that syllabus passage in a light most favorable to Prof. Karega, it may be that class is actually more tolerant of ALL types of "unpopular" (or worse) expression than Oberlin is as a whole.

How much tolerance for the expression of "unpopular" views made by a professor should a university have? Generally a Lot even if we don't like those views.

confused by your post

Professor Tsesis,

The act of suspending Professor based upon her social media posts (no other offensive conduct was alleged by Oberlin) would seem to done to safeguard against Title VI violations related to ongoing campus climate concerns about antisemitism at Oberlin.

However, there are also ongoing campus climate concerns about racism against African-Americans at Oberlin. By suspending Prof. Karega, an African American, months after her social media postings but before any determination of her wrongdoing, Oberlin probably made it more likely it'll have issues with Title VI with respect to the treatment of African-Americans at Oberlin.

Oberlin seems to be trading one problem with Title VI for another. Perhaps other less heavy-handed preliminary sanctions/treatment than suspension would have been appropriate, given the situation. What are your thoughts on the matter?

As an aside, please do not take my posts as support for antisemitism.

Alexander Tsesis

I see nothing antisemitic in your post, confused by your post.

I disagree with you on two points: 1) It took Oberlin six months after Karega's posts came to light to suspend her and to begin a formal faculty investigation. The lapse in time suggests, there has already been an internal preliminary investigation that goes beyond her Facebook account. 2) Karega is an antisemite who by happenstance is black. I don't see how Oberlin's decision to investigate this individual raises Title VI concerns.

On the one hand, I agree with you that less "heavy-handed prelim sanct'ns" might have been appropriate. On the other, the actions taken send a strong signal that Oberlin will not tolerate antisemitism. And, whether the investigation turns up anything other than Facebook postings is anyone's guess (except the investigation committee, which might already have evidence on that score).


Karega presents an extreme example of a problem - what do you do with academics or employees whose conduct and expressed views could lead a reasonable person to think that they are hostile to people of a particular religion, ethnicity, racial or national background.

It's becoming a widespread question - in the UK what do you do with a vocal supporter of Brexit and UKIP who has to manage foreign staff, or deal with foreign customers; how do you deal with the loud Trump supporter who endorses his view of Mexicans and Hispanics. In modern terms the amount of license that political debate allows for people to express views that are profoundly hostile to Muslims, Arabs, Hispanics, blacks, Jews, foreigners is somewhat unprecedented - at least since maybe the 70s.

It presents a really tricky problem. A theoretical physicist I know recently found that an Iranian woman researcher he was dealing with was a holocaust denier - until then he'd found her charming and professional - very troubled he called me, caught on two issues - the extreme offensiveness of the views she'd been indoctrinated with, but clearly believed - and their non relevance to her research, combined with his real discomfort that she was anti Semitic and in a field with many Jewish students and scientists, it was grossly inappropriate to allow situations to arise where they'd have to deal with her.

There is a serious problem developing, not just confined to academia - what do you do with haters? Do you simply monitor them closely? That's burdensome. By the way, outside the US in many countries where there is no employment at will, employees have a right to continued employment - you can't just fire them for being haters unless you can show actual misconduct relating to their job (seriously, been there, have the ACAS scars, a high court judge landed hard on the employee for serious misconduct and ACAS still tried to stop him from being fired.) But waiting for bad things to happen is hardly fair on students, co workers, subordinates or customers who may have to suffer those bad things first.

confused by your post

Professor Tsesis,

You are probably right on your first point of disagreement above. Like you, I speculate that the delay in action against Prof. Karega was due to the time it took to determine how to deal with the matter and to conduct an informal investigation. I imagine other bad facts were found before Oberlin suspended Prof. Karega.

However, IF it turns out Oberlin suspended Prof. Korega only based upon her social media posts, little else is discovered by subsequent investigations and she is further sanctioned or fired, advocates of African Americans on campus will perceive that Oberlin acted against her wrongfully because of her race. They would not perceive such treatment as sending "a strong signal that Oberlin will not tolerate antisemitism." They would look at such treatment in the context of Oberlin's ongoing campus climate concerns with respect to the treatment of African-Americans.

Oberlin should tread carefully here. If Oberlin gets rid of Professor Karega, there will certainly be negative consequences for Oberlin, especially if not much more dirt is dug up.

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