The Anti-Semitism On College Campuses And Duke’s Tepid Response To It

The Anti-Semitism On College Campuses And Duke’s Tepid Response To It


Leonard Zwelling

I received this video from a college friend. He was the second person to send it to me. The first was a highly respected rabbi in the Houston community. What the heck is going on at Duke?

For some of us alumni, we have been asking that for some time. First, there was the lacrosse scandal and the manner in which the Duke president fumbled that crisis.

Then the Potti scandal about falsified data smeared the medical school. That school too mishandled the controversy.

Recently Duke Medical School had to pay back over $112 M in federal grant money due to research misconduct.

Then, of course there was the controversy that erupted when the immediate past president of Duke condoned the use of the Gothic Duke Chapel for a Muslim call to prayer. Thank goodness that was stopped. I wrote a piece in the Duke Chronicle (the local campus newspaper) opposing that nonsense.

And don’t forget the desecration of Robert E. Lee’s statue in the Chapel and the decision by the current president of Duke to leave the space previously occupied by the statue vacant now.

What the hell are they putting in the water in Durham, North Carolina? Thank goodness it hasn’t affected the basketball team.

The latest affront is one I am trying to get to the bottom of.

The conference was held at UNC and was putatively about Gaza. An observer who attended said the presentations were all one-sided blaming Israel for all the misery in the self-governing Hamas-led state that Israel has vacated. But the “entertainment” by a frankly anti-Semitic rapper is the final straw. Where are the adults at Duke?

The Duke/UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies that sponsored the conference seems to have had previous conferences that were legitimate and of academic interest. This one seems to have missed the mark.

I am in communication with the Duke Center for Jewish Life, an organization that we have supported and which must stand up against this sort of discrimination.

I am also in communication with the Provost of Duke University, Dr. Sally Kornbluth, who still has not given me a satisfactory answer as to whether or not anyone at Duke was monitoring what was going on at the conference, who at Duke supported it, if it was supported, how, and was anyone aware of the anti-Semitism that seemed to be welcomed by the receptive audience at the conference? Were any Duke faculty involved? If so, who? What are the consequences for a faculty member who condoned this hateful language and Duke’s association with it?

In this time of allegations that wealthy parents are bribing their kids’ ways into major universities, it is very easy to forego any future support of a financial nature to universities that tolerate bigotry and hatred and do nothing to stop it.

I love Duke. There are five Duke degrees in my immediate family, but that does not mean I cannot stop the support of the university of a legitimate and legal nature for which I expect nothing in return. I give to Duke because I believe in its values. Or did. I am coming to question what those values are now.

Duke has a problem shared by many universities in America. The millennial left is rising. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel has taken hold on many campuses and morphed into anti-Semitism. The same left is intolerant of conservative speakers who seem to offend their sensitivities or trigger past trauma.

The right is emboldened by the current occupant of the White House as we saw in Charlottesville.

Neither form of intolerance is good for the academic life of the university.

Now is the time for university leaders to step up and act like the adults in the room. Free speech is great. Even speech that offends. But speech that incites is not, whether it comes from the Oval Office or the Duke/UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

President Price of Duke. Man up and tell us all what you are going to do to make sure this never happens again. Duke’s name is the only one it will ever have. Right now, that’s not looking too good.

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