Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, Global, Higher Ed, Public Health

Responding to Anti-Semitism

April 14, 2019 |3:14 min read

Postscript to blogpost below:
On Friday, April 12, we learned about a video from a musical performance at a three-day “Conflict over Gaza” conference held on campus in March 2019. We co-sponsored the conference, just as we co-sponsor many campus conferences for which we are not responsible (i.e., don’t participate in planning; don’t see the speaker list or agenda). The conference was intended to foster knowledge and understanding. The performance, as shown on the video, which was shared on social media, undermined those goals with its ugly anti-Semitism, inappropriate in every way for a campus or any other environment. We join others in the University in condemning the video and the performance. As global citizens, we all have much to learn about the Middle East. At Gillings, we oppose anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other isms.

Going forward, we at the Gillings School are changing how we support conferences. We will review all agendas prior to making a commitment to co-sponsorship, scrutinizing them for evidence of anti-Semitism, racism and other isms. We are going to make every effort to ensure that what happened never is repeated here.

On Wednesday, April 10, Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz shared via email this announcement that anti-Semitic flyers were found at Davis Library.

He said, “I am extremely disappointed and appalled that anyone would write these abhorrent messages and direct them toward members of our Jewish community. This behavior conflicts with the University’s long-standing commitment to fostering an environment where all students, faculty and staff can be free from harassment.”

None of us can feel safe in an environment where ill-intentioned individuals can spew hatred toward any group or individuals. That’s not who we are, and such behavior should not and will not be tolerated.

Anti-Semitism has no place on this campus, and, specifically, not at the Gillings School. Coming soon after (most recently) the racist defacement of the Unsung Founders Memorial and, one week before that, the presence of an armed white supremacist on the Carolina campus, these abhorrent messages and behaviors show that this campus is not a haven against hate. Rather, we are experiencing not something unique, but symptoms of the larger  hate-mongering and confrontational politics legitimized at the highest reaches of United States and, increasingly, global leadership.

At the Gillings School, we decry all forms of discrimination, bullying and harassment toward any group or individual. These aggressive acts have no place anywhere, especially not on a campus that should be a model for inclusive excellence. Whether hatred comes from within our community or externally, we must be prepared, as the interim chancellor was, to call it out and to say that we will stand against anti-Semitism, racism and other isms which undermine the safety of groups and individuals and threaten the fabric of our democracy.

At the Gillings School, we recognize that transformation is unlikely to occur unless we understand our collective history, the causes of racism and other isms, and act to bring about an inclusive future. This is part of our School’s mission, and we must work actively to uphold it.

Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz’s message references campus and community resources and information about discrimination and harassment (safe.unc.edu/). He also shares a mechanism for reporting prohibited discrimination and harassment (Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office). We hope you will draw on these resources as needed, as well as the other resources on campus – including the many people here at the Gillings School whose doors are open – for dialogue and for organizing.

In the very near future, we will institute a virtual “suggestion box” where people can write in with ideas or concerns with regard to helping dismantle “isms” and creating a more inclusive, diverse and equitable environment. Thank you for all you do to affirm and support these aims.

The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.