ANN ARBOR, MI – Several community members urged the University of Michigan Board of Regents and administrators to voice their support for the Jewish student population following anti-Semitic emails sent to students last week.
The calls for the university to support Jewish students who were targeted by anti-Semitic emails came with the belief from some who participated in public comment that a double standard has been applied by speaking out for other marginalized student groups following incidents of hate.
“I urge the university to find its voice and finally make it clear that there will be no more double standard,” said Eugene Greenstein, who spoke on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America, Michigan Region. “Jewish students’ concerns matter, just like everyone else’s. That means truly living up to the university’s commitment to create a climate of inclusion by clearly and forcefully speaking out when Jewish students are targeted ostracized and made to feel less than fully welcome.”
UM President Mark Schlissel was quick to defend the university’s response to the latest incident of racist and anti-Semitic emails reiterating that he has denounced the act and that bigotry on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion are not tolerated.
Schlissel also expressed his admiration for the Jewish student population at UM during the public comment session.
“Anti-Semitism is not tolerated here or elsewhere and should not ever be,” Schlissel said. “I’m very proud of the fact that the University of Michigan has a thriving Jewish community, the most impressive Hillel, a thriving Chabad house, faculty, staff and at least two presidents of the institution that are Jewish, including myself.
“The rights of our Jewish students are as valuable as the rights of any other majority or minority member on the campus and I’m very proud of that community,” he added.
Late Tuesday, Feb. 7, emails attacking black and Jewish students were sent to College of Engineering students by a person or persons who forged the email address of J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering. He said he did not send the emails and the university has determined the emails were forged or “spoofed.”
The UM Division of Public Safety & Security and the ITS security team continue to investigate the incident with the help of the FBI.
Sheldon Freilich, who spoke during public comment, said he was appalled to see what he described as an ugly climate of anti-Semitism on the UM campus over the last few years, with Jewish students experiencing harassment and name calling.
“Jewish students have been harassed and intimidated on campus, violating federal civil rights law by creating a hostile environment for this religious and ethnic minority,” said Freilich, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Michigan Region. “As a citizen, I expect that college officials take the harassment of Jewish students seriously, and in the same forceful way as they respond when African-American, women, Muslim, gay and other students are targeted.”
Members of the Board of Regents echoed the sentiments of Schlissel in voicing their support for Jewish students at UM, including Regent Andrea Fischer Newman.
“I want to agree with the president’s remarks, and I think that abuse of any student – Muslim, Jewish or otherwise – is not acceptable on this campus,” she said. “Until recently, I didn’t appreciate the fact that some felt there was a double standard for Jewish students and I wanted to thank those students and others who have reached out to let me know how they feel.”
Michigan Hillel Chair Josh Blum said the Jewish student group has banded together with other groups like the Black Student Union and the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program to build positive relationships at a time when acts of hate have created a tumultuous climate on campus.
“We feel it is important for our communities to show support for one another and come together,” he said. “Just last week, several Hillel student leaders worked in partnership with the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program to show support for refugees. We are committed to finding more ways to bring groups and students together for positive change on this campus.”
This article was published by MLive and may be found here.