Rutgers' Initial Actions following Investigation into Anti-Semitic Communications
Statement issued by President Barchi and Chancellor Dutta
on December 8, 2017
A fundamental expectation of a university is to provide an environment in which students can learn, discover their passions, and do research free from fears of discrimination, harassment, or disruption.
So, too, should our faculty and staff expect a professional environment that is welcoming and free from discrimination.
Earlier this fall, Michael Chikindas, a Rutgers–New Brunswick tenured professor, was found to have posted extensive bigoted, discriminatory, and anti-Semitic material on social media. This material perpetuated toxic stereotypes and was deeply upsetting to Jewish students, faculty, and staff across our community. The fears and concerns they have expressed to us and many university leaders are both justified and understandable.
Immediately upon learning of the professor’s conduct, the university began an investigation of his actions in the context of our own policies and relevant law. While aspects of the disciplinary process remain confidential, we are taking the following actions today as a result of that investigation:
• Professor Chikindas will be removed from teaching required courses. No Rutgers student will be required to take a course that he teaches.
• He has been removed from his leadership position as director of the Center for Digestive Health at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health. No Rutgers employee will be required to work in an administrative unit that he heads.
• He will be required to participate in a cultural sensitivity training program, and will be subject to ongoing monitoring if and when he returns to the classroom.
• Finally, Professor Chikindas has been notified that the university is seeking further disciplinary action through procedures required by Appendix H of the collective bargaining agreement with our faculty union.
This has been a sad and deeply troubling situation for our students and our staff, and for our faculty, who stand for much nobler values than those expressed by this particular professor. While the university is and should always be a place that challenges students to grapple with complex and even controversial ideas, this situation has threatened the trust between professors and students that is a prerequisite to learning.
It is our hope that we can navigate these difficult conversations together and that, having been tested by these challenges, we can emerge stronger and with renewed appreciation of our common bonds.
Robert Barchi, President
Deba Dutta, Chancellor
The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life joins with colleagues across the university to unite against bigotry.
Statement issued by “Rutgers Unites Against Bigotry” on President Barchi’s Response to Anti-Semitism at Rutgers posted on November 27
Recently, many of us signed a letter applauding President Barchi’s condemnation of the anti-Semitic postings on social media by Prof. Michael Chikindas. But now we write to express our dismay over our president’s equivocal statements about anti-Semitism at our university at a Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) forum on Thursday, November 16, 2017.
At that event, according to published reports, President Barchi responded to concerns about various expressions of anti-Semitism, including by Prof. Chikindas, by defending freedom of speech but failing to condemn unambiguously the anti-Semitism itself. In a time of rising bigotry on university campuses, including at Rutgers, this amounted to an abdication of his role as a leader of our institution and community.
President Barchi is correct to say that anti-Semitic speech enjoys First Amendment protections. We are glad that he reminded his audience of that uncomfortable reality. But upholding free speech rights is only part of the university president’s job. He has an equally important duty to denounce hatred and bigotry in all forms, including expressions of anti-Semitism, in a way that gives voice to the university community’s highest values. His dismissive and, at times, imprecise remarks at the forum failed to do this.
Bigotry has no place in civil discourse. Even when hateful and racist language is legally permitted, it is never acceptable. We hold that the answer to false and harmful speech is more speech—beginning with outspoken, unequivocal words from our leaders. In these parlous times, college presidents must take the lead in defending the principle of free speech and, simultaneously, in recognizing and denouncing anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice when they appear.
Rutgers Unites Against Bigotry