Editor’s note: For context, we recommend you read both the letter submitted by concerned students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to Chancellor Javier Reyes on the morning of November 10th, 2023, and Chancellor Reyes’ Response delivered a few hours later, which can be found here.
CAMERA on Campus expresses its deep disappointment at the refusal of University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Chancellor Reyes to take meaningful measures to address antisemitism and intimidation on his campus.
After a plea from Jewish students that he act regarding the Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) invitation of a notorious antisemite to campus, amidst a wave of antisemitism and violence, the chancellor shamefully chose inaction.
As the students clearly note in their letter, hosting an event with El-Kurd violates the university land use policy and student code of conduct which are intended to protect students from discrimination and the incitement of violence.
Reyes’ refusal to intervene is especially astonishing when a Jewish student was violently assaulted by a knife-wielding student carrying a Palestinian flag at UMass Amherst on November 3rd, 2023.
Instead of acknowledging and addressing the legitimate concerns of students and the violation of university policy, Chancellor Reyes has repeated his previous empty rhetoric, claiming that the university is “committed to building a community of dignity and respect where opposing viewpoints can be shared in a safe, respectful environment” The chancellor also repeated his condemnation of Hamas’s attack.
But there is no safe, respectful environment!. The Jews are being attacked and Chancellor Reyes needs to act.
National SJP has a long history of working against the very values the chancellor purportedly seeks to uphold. It has spent years turning universities across the country into hostile environments for Jewish students, who have become increasingly intimidated into hiding not just their views, but their very identity.
SJP responded to the October 7 massacre by enthusiastically answering Hamas’s call for a “day of rage,” justifying the attack as legitimate “resistance,” and declaring it is a “PART of this movement, not [just] in solidarity with this movement.”
SJP has a well-established revord of targeting, disrupting, and harassing Jewish and Zionist institutions and events, both on and off campuses, including at UMass Amherst. It endorsed the so-called “Boston Mapping Project,” which listed and placed a target on Jewish institutions across Massachusetts.
In other words, SJP has demonstrated it stands diametrically opposed to the values Chancellor Reyes invokes.
Nevertheless, amidst a surge in antisemitism which has turned violent at his own university, the chancellor refuses to act as SJP brings to campus an individual known for peddling the crudest forms of antisemitism, including preaching that the violence of a genocidal, antisemitic terror organization is not just justified, but to be celebrated.
Professional bigots like El-Kurd do, indeed, have their right to free expression. But so, too, do Jewish students. So, too, do Jewish students have a right to freely participate in university life without harassment, fear or intimidation.
We call on Chancellor Reyes to follow the example of American University which withdrew its sponsorship and access to campus facilities for El-Kurd in March of 2022. This required organizers to move the event off-campus removing the imprimatur of the institution.
In failing to stand against Jew-hatred, Chancellor Reyes is shamefully abandoning the Jewish community he is sworn to protect — and in so doing sullying the name of the university.