Rutgers University is supposed to be a safe and encouraging environment for students to learn about their passions. A large component to this goal is the faculty employed at the University. Over the past several weeks, it has been revealed that several members of the Rutgers faculty have backgrounds and hold beliefs that are antithetical to the ideals that we have as a University. Professor Michael Chikindas posted blatantly anti-Semitic and homophobic posts online and now we know that Professor Mazen Adi worked for the Assad regime in Syria. While working there, he engaged in horrific activity that should not be present at our school. We question the University’s decision to hire Adi in the first place, why both professors are still employed here and the lack of response that the University has given regarding their conducts.
Adi was brought on in 2015 after working for the Assad regime in Syria for over 16 years. He had a hand in defending Syria to international bodies, such as the UN and has “justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime,” according to UN Watch. Ironically, he is scheduled to teach a class on “International Criminal Law and Anti-Corruption” next semester. Rutgers has responded to demands to fire Adi by saying that “Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the University will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely.”
But we have to ask ourselves, should an “apologist for … mass murder” be given the platform to speak freely in the context of a political science class about anti-corruption while being so blatantly a part of it? Adi has a clearly biased and unethical platform and it has no reason to be shared at our University. Furthermore, in an article from Algemeiner, a former student has claimed that Adi defended Palestinian terrorism in class as a legitimate form of “resistance” to Israeli “occupation.” Clearly, Adi’s positions cannot be part of the fabric and culture of inclusion and peace that Rutgers University promotes. The University defends its decision to hire him based off of “his expertise in international law and diplomacy, and other fields.” But is genocidal diplomacy the type of politics that we want taught in our University? Where is the line drawn?
This revelation of Adi’s associations comes soon after Chikindas’s Facebook page was revealed to contain many problematic posts. After creating a petition to suspend Chikindas with over 5,000 signatures as of Nov. 9, we have yet to hear a response from the chancellor or president of the University, both of whom received an email with the petition and signatories attached over a week ago. While we appreciate the University’s statement condemning Chikindas’s posts, further action must be taken and a new statement must be made.
Freedom of speech is a right that all citizens and students have, including these professors. But while what they say and believe may not break U.S. law, they do not adhere to the culture that we here at Rutgers have worked so hard to cultivate. As students and humanitarians, we do not support mass murder and terrorism nor those who try to excuse it and justify it.
The University must recognize how immoral employing these professors as University faculty is and must to take action against them. As students, we do not deserve to be subject to people who are capable of spewing such hatred.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Miriam Waghalter and Rutgers student Austin Altman