Oberlin Professor Fired After Anti-Semitic Social Media Posts, Vows to Fight Dismissal

Update: Joe Karega, the assistant Oberlin professor fired by the university after an internal investigation into anti-Semitic posts on social media, released a statement yesterday vowing to fight her dismissal.

“I will challenge the college’s decision and assault on my substantive rights through ALL the avenues I have available to me. Several of my Facebook posts were taken out of their original context and grossly misrepresented by a magazine with a political agenda. To add insult to injury, for the last eight months, Oberlin College has campaigned to implicate my professional fitness using arbitrary, inequitable, and discriminatory practices. Indeed, the college launched an assault on my substantive rights."


(Updated 11/16/16): Joy Karega has been fired by Oberlin. The assistant professor had been on paid leave and not allowed to teach classes after she posted anti-Semitic sentiments on Facebook.

Oberlin announced the dismissal today on its website and in a letter to the Oberlin community. You can read it in its entirety below.

The Oberlin College Board of Trustees, after extensive consideration and a comprehensive review of recommendations from multiple faculty committees and Oberlin President Marvin Krislov, has voted to dismiss Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition Joy D. Karega for failing to meet the academic standards that Oberlin requires of its faculty and failing to demonstrate intellectual honesty.

The dismissal is effective Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

As a Board, we agree with President Krislov and every faculty committee reviewing this matter that the central issues are Dr. Karega’s professional integrity and fitness. We affirm Oberlin’s historic and ongoing commitment to academic freedom.

During this process, which began with Dr. Karega’s posting of anti-Semitic writings on social media, Dr. Karega received numerous procedural protections: she was represented by counsel; she presented witness testimony, documents, and statements to support her position; and she had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses testifying against her.

The faculty review process examined whether Dr. Karega had violated the fundamental responsibilities of Oberlin faculty members – namely, adherence to the “Statement of Professional Ethics” of the American Association of University Professors, which requires faculty members to “accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge” and to “practice intellectual honesty.”

Contrary to this obligation, Dr. Karega attacked her colleagues when they challenged inconsistencies in her description of the connection between her postings and her scholarship. She disclaimed all responsibility for her misconduct. And she continues to blame Oberlin and its faculty committees for undertaking a shared governance review process.

For these reasons, the faculty review committees and President Krislov agreed on the seriousness of Dr. Karega’s misconduct. Indeed, the majority of the General Faculty Council, the executive body of Oberlin’s faculty, concluded that Dr. Karega’s postings could not be justified as part of her scholarship and had “irreparably impaired (her) ability to perform her duties as a scholar, a teacher, and a member of the community.”

In the face of Dr. Karega’s repeated refusal to acknowledge and remedy her misconduct, her continued presence undermines the mission and values of Oberlin’s academic community. Thus, any sanction short of dismissal is insufficient and the Board of Trustees is compelled to take this most serious action.


(Updated 8/3/16): Months after initially citing academic freedom in a half-defense of professor Joy Karega's anti-Semitic posts on social media, Oberlin has put her on paid leave and announced she will not be allowed to teach on campus any longer.

Back in March, when the story picked up national and international steam (see our original coverage below), the college's board of trustees asked for an internal investigation. The result of that investigation, some five months later, led to today's announcement, as first reported by the Cleveland Jewish News.

In a statement to the paper, Oberlin said: “In March, in consultation with President Marvin Krislov, the trustees of Oberlin College asked the administration and faculty to ‘challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings. The college initiated its faculty governance process to review Dr. Karega’s professional fitness in light of these postings.
 The faculty governance process that began thereafter is ongoing, and the Oberlin administration will continue to respect this process as it plays out. Until that process is complete, Dr. Karega has been placed on paid leave and will not teach at Oberlin.”


(Original story 3/3/16): Even leafy Oberlin College, that bastion of liberal thought one hour west of Cleveland, isn't invulnerable to the species of batty professors who advance their fringe views on the internet.

Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin, was revealed last week to have been spouting anti-Semitic rants and lunatic conspiracy theories on her social media accounts.

Though Karega has understandably upped the privacy settings on her Facebook page, Fox News (not what you'd call a bastion of liberal thought, to be fair) posted screenshots of some of her more outrageous posts:

In one, Karega blamed Jews for the 9/11 terror attacks. In another, she posted a picture after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris showing an ISIS fighter with a Star of David tattoo on his forearm pulling off a mask, exposing the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Tasteful stuff like that. 

Oberlin issued an initial statement assuring the community that the views of Karega in no way reflected the views of the university. And Wednesday, Oberlin's president, Marvin Krislov, sent a letter to the community digging a little deeper. (The Chronicle-Telegram reports that the letter did not mention Karega by name.) 
“I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust,” Krislov wrote in the letter. “As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories...

“I am also the son of a tenured faculty member at a large research university. My father instilled in me a strong belief in academic freedom,” he continued. “I believe, as the American Association of University Professors says, that academic freedom is ‘the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education’ because it encourages free inquiry, promotes the expansion of knowledge, and creates an environment in which learning and research can flourish.” 

Many in the Jewish community feel that that's a poor excuse, and that Krislov is hiding behind academic freedom instead of dispensing justice.

click to enlarge Assistant Professor Joy Karega - Oberlin College
Oberlin College
Assistant Professor Joy Karega
“She is not a tenured professor," the Director of the Israeli Law Center told Fox News. "She needs to be thrown off campus immediately.” 

Karega was, incidentally, on the list of professors to whom the Black Student Union wanted administrators to guarantee tenure back in December. Black students submitted an extensive list of demands at that time which they hoped might address racial tension on campus. They said they feared for their safety. 

For the time being, Karega claims that once she emerges from her "Unbothered state of being," she will address the threats and silencing tactics that have been used against her, presumably in a public forum, and will also analyze "how common it is for Black women, who are early in their career on the tenure track as part of the professoriate, to be prime targets for these kinds of activities and practices.”

According to Oberlin, Karega focuses on issues of social justice and social change in her classroom. Her primary area of research has been "historiciz[ing] the political literacy education of the Black Liberation Front International."

Now, thanks to the current controversy, (btw: first reported by the pro-Israel Middle East publication The Tower), Karega says she'll focus at least part of her next book on "bullying."    
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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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