The University of Missouri has been the location of several anti-Semitic acts that the president, Tim Wolfe, appeared reluctant to address. The final vile act, which included the formation of a swastika, was enough to encourage thirty-six Jewish and civil rights organizations to demand the president’s resignation. Concurrently, Black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, heroically began a hunger strike, and within days, both the president and Chancellor Loftin stepped down from their positions.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who usually gets it right, this time said that Jewish students will likely find themselves facing an even more hostile, threatening and unsafe environment because administrators are either too busy or too scared to address anti-Semitism, thereby leaving Jewish students more vulnerable and unprotected. So, should the inmates continue running the asylum? Acts of bigotry are occurring throughout America’s campuses and worldwide, whether or not the students are outspoken. Anything can trigger another “moderate” to becoming an active aggressor, whether the bully is motivated by others’ acts of intolerance and violence or by the relatively unobtrusive prey. Being busy or scared is hardly an excuse for the head of a university to shirk his responsibilities.
Rossman-Benjamin suggested that a president may fear appearing to favor Jewish students. Does she think it’s wrong to favor any victimized students or just the Jewish students? What if there were a second group of victims? Would the administration feel more comfortable and legitimized if a non-Jewish group were imperiled along with the Jewish? In fact, is it not moral to protect and care for the students who are attacked? An administrator must display the attributes of both ethics and courage to govern such an institution, and use the event as a teaching strategy and warning.
As hate is allowed to fester on various campuses, without administrative interference or penalties, the number of hostilities and kinds of depravity may be expected to increase. These establishments are microcosms of countries around the world, where the hatred and violent behavior may well reach unmanageable proportions, to the point of taking complete control – if they are not stopped now. The University of Missouri must be administered by people who will not have the privilege of remaining ignorant, cowardly, or indifferent, no matter the alibi. We do not remove our cities’ police forces or our country’s armed forces because of how we might be viewed as pandering to one side over the other. If the administrators are too busy or fainthearted to address the growing bigotry, they are ill-equipped to perform the duties of their position. Their stated duty, after all, is to “work together on behalf of all citizens.”
All positions change, whether because of a political climate, improved technology or fluctuating needs, and while it is regrettable that terrorism has become a serious issue for the schools as it has for the world, a candidate who assumes the position of leadership during peacetime must be able to adjust his skills and responsibilities accordingly during wartime.
The United States Department of State has adopted a definition of anti-Semitism, which includes advocating the murder of Jews, Holocaust denial, accusing Jews of fabricating the Holocaust, accusations of dual loyalty (loyalty to both Israel and their country of birth), denies Jewish people’s right to self-determination (one-state solution), using symbols associated with anti-Semitism (swastikas and Nazism), holding Israel to standards not demanded of other countries or criticisms not leveled at other countries, harassment (verbal, graphic, electronic, written; offensive, harmful or threatening conduct). Know your rights and reach out for help: EndBDS.com.
There is a new interim president at the University of Missouri, Michael Middleton. It would appear that he has the will and resourcefulness to protect the school’s citizens, regardless of race or creed. If anti-Israel or anti-Black groups threaten to harm students on campus, we trust they will also face expulsion. The university administrators need to display the qualities of integrity and courage, attributes that our students must acquire during their formative years in order to be the fine, upstanding American citizens required to restore America to its recognized level of greatness.