In response to “OIE investigates TA’s tweet about failing a Zionist student” published on January 9, 2021:
As faculty affiliated with the Jewish Studies Program at Hopkins, we are deeply troubled by reports that a Hopkins teaching assistant spoke of penalizing students in her class on the basis of their identity and background — even for displaying an image of a street sign in Tel Aviv. As scholars of the Jewish experience, we understand the protean character of antisemitism and the ease with which people can convince themselves and others of the collective guilt of targeted groups and the “need” to “punish” them.
Some of us are particularly appalled by reports that said individual presented her hostility as motivated by anti-racist commitment, given that targeting whole categories of people for hostility is a classical feature of racist bigotry.
We hope all faculty and students at Hopkins, regardless of field, share our view that there can never be any justification for using a student’s background, identity or politics as a factor in grading and that declarations of the sort allegedly made, particularly when made by someone exercising power over students, are intolerable. We call on the administration to undertake a fair, full and prompt investigation of the matter at hand; to resolve the matter appropriately; and to inform the campus community of its findings, decision and rationale immediately upon conclusion of the investigation.
But our concerns are broader too. Looking beyond this particular investigation, we note that similar incidents have occurred on campus over the past year, and we are thus concerned that this incident is part of an emerging pattern. Antisemitism on campus should be fought like other forms of prejudice, whether that antisemitism is of the white supremacist “gentlemanly” sort that tarnished Hopkins in the 1930s and 1940s or the sort that presents itself as somehow progressive.
Prejudice itself must be fought through knowledge and the acquisition of critical thinking skills, and we, as scholars of Jewish studies with a wide range of views regarding the history and trajectory of Israeli policies and the complex Jewish-Palestinian situation in the Middle East, hope that Hopkins students will study the situation with us and with our colleagues in other related fields. We also believe that training against antisemitism should be included as part of the University’s general anti-racist training, and call on the University to make that change.
Students who believe they have been subjected to antisemitic treatment are encouraged to make this known to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity or to any of the signatories of this letter. We look forward to the prompt resolution of this matter.
Neta Stahl, Director of the Stulman Program in Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature
Kenneth Moss, Felix Posen Professor of Modern Jewish History
Steven David, Professor of International Relations
Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Professor of Philosophy, Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of the Humanities
Pawel Maciejko, Associate Professor, Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Chair in Classical Jewish Religion, Thought, and Culture
Samuel Spinner, Assistant Professor, Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Chair in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture
Beatrice Lang, Lecturer, Yiddish Language