Since Yale has thus far refused to release the so-called study on which it claims to have based its decision—or even to show it to those most directly affected—it is impossible to know the real reasons behind this controversial action. The two offered by Yale do not satisfy academic criteria. The first, that there was insufficient faculty interest in the initiative, is simply not true. Many faculty members, both inside and outside of Yale, have supported the initiative and have participated in its programs. I myself have delivered a lecture and serve on an advisory board. Several distinguished academics from around the world have also participated. But even if it were true, a lack of interest by the Yale faculty in the growing problem of anti-Semitism would be a symptom of the problem and not an excuse for refusing to study it.
The second claimed reason was a lack of scholarly output from this relatively new institution. This too is doubtful since numerous articles, books, conferences and other scholarly output have been generated over the past several years—with the promise of more to come.
I have been in and around American academic institutions for more than half a century. Never before have I seen such a lack of process and fairness in the termination of a program. Generally, if there is any dissatisfaction with the program, university administrator sit down with those in charge and seek ways of improving it. Rarely if ever is the program simply shut down, as this one has been. Yale has some explaining to do. Even better, it should reconsider its decision, solicit input from outsiders who have participated in the program and figure out a constructive way of keeping the important work of the initiative going.
One of the most important human rights issues of the 21st Century is whether Israel’s actions in defense of its citizens, or indeed its very existence, will provide the newest excuse for the oldest of bigotries. There has rarely been a more important time for the interdisciplinary study of the spreading phenomenon of anti-Semitism in the world today. Yale has a chance to be at the forefront of this study. Instead it has taken a cowardly step away from the controversy. It’s not too late to undo its mistake.
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