June 13, 2018
Kathleen Waldron, Ph.D.
President, William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, NJ 07470
Dear President Waldron:
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., whose mission includes fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in schools and on college campuses.
We were appalled to read a news report about the anti-Semitic falsehoods that Sociology Professor Clyde Magarelli is promoting in his classroom. Magarelli has reportedly been engaging in this kind of behavior for years and the administration is well aware of it. The news report reflects that the University was putting the onus on a student to file a formal complaint before it took any action. Now we understand that the matter is under review.
That review should culminate in Magarelli’s termination. The University would never tolerate a physics professor teaching his students that E = mc³, rather than the correct formula, E = mc². How can the University tolerate a professor who promotes lies about Jews and the Holocaust?
We understand that there is video evidence of Magarelli in one of his classes, falsely claiming that Ashkenazi Jews “have no biological links to the original Judaism. They claim to have it, though there’s no link at all. DNA follows that.” He also falsely claimed that German Jews found safety in the German army during the Holocaust: “One hundred and seventy five thousand German Jews served in the German army – this is not the SS – the German army – in World War II and occupied positions from private up tot field marshal, the highest ranks. Now the leader of that himself was a Jew.”
These false claims are part of a disturbing and unacceptable pattern. In 1994, Magarelli’s department reportedly reprimanded him after he handed students a document that substantially downplayed the number of deaths in Nazi concentration camps, misinforming students that the number of deaths was between 700,000 and 800,000.
Last year, a student reportedly complained to the head of the Sociology Department about Magarelli and filed a formal complaint with the University, alleging that the professor made “anti-Semitic and racist comments” in the classroom. The dean who looked into the complaint reportedly called for Magarelli to be investigated for “improperly veering off the topic[s] of his Criminal Investigations syllabus/outline.” The dean also reportedly concluded that if Magarelli engaged in behavior or made statements “that are deemed discriminatory in nature (as opposed to protected under academic freedom), the University will (and has as recently as this school year) act accordingly to take action against that professor.”
Given the latest instances of misconduct, University action is required now. Magarelli must be terminated immediately.
His actions are not protected by the principles of academic freedom. As the University’s Faculty and Professional Staff Handbook makes clear, academic freedom does not mean that anything goes, that professors are free to do and say whatever they wish. Academic freedom “derives from the nature of the quest for knowledge” and “it is essential to the full search for truth.” As the handbook recognizes, academic freedom comes with responsibilities and “shall not be . . . abused.” In short, Magarelli does not have the academic freedom to teach or disseminate demonstrably false information.
The handbook also makes it clear that academic freedom “does not protect anyone against violation of University policies and procedures, and/or state and federal statutes.” William Paterson University’s non-discrimination policy expresses the University’s commitment to maintain an academic environment that is free from discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion, among other protected categories. The policy recognizes that “discriminatory behavior seriously undermines the atmosphere of trust essential to the academic and work environment.” Promoting anti-Semitic falsehoods in the classroom undermines the learning environment for Jewish students. The consequences for engaging in discrimination are serious: “Anyone who violates this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.”
Finally, the University’s core values include academic excellence and the highest standards of knowledge. These values are not being served when the University knowingly tolerates a professor who is misrepresenting facts and historical truths to his students.
Magarelli was rebuked for his misconduct more than 10 years ago, but the rebuke plainly did not change his behavior. At this point, the appropriate consequence is his immediate termination.
We look forward to your response and would be pleased to assist in any way.
Very truly yours,
Morton A. Klein, National President
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Dir., Center for Law and Justice
Alan D. Jay, Exec. Dir., Northern NJ Chapter