Morally bankrupt climate on U.S. campuses spells trouble
To understand just how depraved today’s college campuses are, compare the treatment of two professors — one defending a Western, pro-American democracy (Israel) and the other suspected of supporting this century’s most gruesome Islamist terror organization, the so-called Islamic State.
Julio Pino, an associate history professor at Kent State University, is currently under investigation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for potential ties to the Islamic State. His jihadist leanings include possible threats against the U.S. government and virulently anti-Israel rants. In 2002, he praised a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber who had killed two people in Jerusalem, saying that the teen had “died a martyr’s death in occupied Jerusalem, Palestine.”
In a 2014 open letter to “academic friends of Israel,” Pino published an unhinged and anti-Semitic invective: “I hold you directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians over the past month,” he wrote. While, “The Chosen drain the blood of innocents without apologies, you hide behind the mask of academic objectivity, nobility of research and the reward of teaching to foreign youth — in a segregated university, of course.” Pino closed the letter with: “Jihad until victory!”
Despite decades of hateful and extremist statements, Kent State reportedly gave Pino multiple awards, including the Faculty Excellence Award in 2010, 2003, 2000 and 1996, along with the Professional Excellence Award in 1999 and 1997.
The Kent Stater, the university’s student newspaper, provided him with a video platform to defend himself, and the editorial board wrote that “it is too soon to make a judgment on the investigation, both from the FBI and public perspective.” When asked about the allegations against Pino, the editor of the paper, Emily Mills, reportedly replied: “He’s very well spoken. … He expresses his viewpoints, which he has every right to do.”
Contrast Pino’s treatment with how Connecticut College has persecuted professor Andrew Pessin for defending Israel in its 2014 war with Hamas.
More than six months after Pessin’s Facebook post critiquing Hamas, the student newspaper at Connecticut College launched a surprise character assassination by publishing three editorials condemning Pessin (including on the front page), without giving him a chance to defend himself against libelous accusations of racism.
In a reportedly packed auditorium that included members of the media, like NBC, Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron said that she was “disappointed by the language” of Pessin’s post, which “seemed to show poor judgment,” and she praised “the valor of the students who responded to these incidents by exercising their own right of free speech with confidence and intellectual acuity.” These statements by Bergeron continue to appear on the college’s website, long after a Washington Post column exposed evidence strongly suggesting that the allegations against Pessin were politically motivated lies.
More absurdly, Bergeron promised to “review our social media policies to ensure they include appropriate advisory language about respectful expression,” even as her administration continues to allow the school’s student newspaper to host libels against Pessin alongside anti-Semitic diatribes about Zionists ruling the world. The administration also continues to display statements from scores of academic departments, school officials, student associations and other college affiliates denouncing Pessin on the official Connecticut College website.
In her remarks last March, Bergeron also promised to update the school’s “protocol for bias incidents so that those who come forward under these circumstances are well served by the process.”
Too bad her lofty commitments proved empty after the bias incidents against Jewish students at the school last December, when Conn Students in Solidarity with Palestine (“CSSP”) placed posters around campus bashing Birthright, a program that helps young people travel to Israel. The CSSP posters call the program a form of “settler colonialism” and demonize Israel.
Anti-Israel sentiment is therefore welcome on bulletin boards throughout Connecticut College’s campus, regardless of whether it is true. But the “poor judgment” Andrew Pessin showed in a Facebook post merits his absence from campus for at least a year.
It gets much worse. In her article attacking Pessin last March, Lamiya Khandaker admits that she was Pessin’s student, but “never felt victimized in class,” even as she claims to “feel unsafe” because of a barely noticed Facebook post published six months earlier. Shockingly, Khandaker initiated a campuswide campaign accusing Pessin of racism, even after he apologized for any misunderstanding, clarified that his post was intended only about Hamas and not all Palestinians, and deleted his post.
Khandaker, who received the “Scholar Activist Award” last spring, was apparently never sanctioned, and was allowed to keep her position as the student government chair of “equity and diversity” at Connecticut College. Khandaker kept that position even though she reportedly scoffed at anti-Semitism and called for Israel’s destruction on her Facebook page.
It’s an elected position, school spokeswoman Pamela Serfes said last fall, and the administration “does not select or pre-qualify candidates, nor would it seek to remove duly elected office holders with whom it may disagree.”
Would the same be true if a white student publicly dismissed concerns about racism and called for the destruction of a black-majority state?
To recap, not only did the Connecticut College administration participate in the character assassination of a professor who did nothing more than criticize Hamas, it rewarded those behind the campaign to silence their school’s only openly pro-Israel professor. Then, CSSP spread its vitriol in anti-Israel posters with no effective voice on campus to counter their hateful propaganda.
Meanwhile, the school refuses to apologize to Pessin, who is still not on campus.
And Pino, the Islamist? He’s still teaching at taxpayer-funded Kent State and receives far more support from his school’s newspaper. If George Orwell were observing academia, he would remark that “all speech is equal, but anti-Israel speech is more equal than others.”
This is the morally bankrupt climate in which America’s future is being educated. We’re in trouble.
Noah Beck is the author of “The Last Israelis,” an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.