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An Oberlin Professor Was Fired for Anti-Semitic Facebook Posts

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On Tuesday, Oberlin College professor Joy Karega was fired for “anti-Semitic writings on social media” after an investigation that began in August. Karega’s case was originally brought to the attention of the Oberlin Board of Directors earlier this year after past posts from her private Facebook page were discovered, according to Inside Higher Ed.  

When screenshots of Karega’s posts were first made public, the Oberlin administration maintained that, while her posts were undoubtedly harmful and offensive, the College was committed to protecting academic freedom, or the rights of members of its community to “free inquiry [and] the expansion of knowledge.”

Of the situation, Karega said on Wednesday that she has endured abuse of all kinds since her posts came to light. “Several of my Facebook posts were taken out of their original context...Since [their publication], I been inundated with HUNDREDS of hatemail filled with slurs (racial, misogynist, classist), harassment, and threats,” she said in a statement. She pledged to fight back against her dismissal.

Oberlin President Martin Krislov himself responded to the events in a statement this past March, saying that as a practicing Jew he found the comments personally hurtful, but as a devoted academic he fell on the side of freedom of speech rights. “This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive,” said Krislov.

But his opinion apparently changed after the Board of Directors at Oberlin voted to remove Karega from the staff, stating that “the central issues are Dr. Karega’s professional integrity and fitness.” According to the college, Karega was given more than adequate due process in her investigation but proceeded to “[attack] her colleagues...and [disclaim] all responsibility for her misconduct.”

Jewish Students who are members of Oberlin’s Students for Palestine organization published a letter via an Oberlin news source in March stating their support for Karega and their disagreement with the College’s take on her posts. They touched on the racism Karega said she has experienced, saying “we are troubled by the implicit and explicit currents of anti-Black racism prevalent in the mass defamation of Professor Karega.” They called on the Oberlin community to support the professor.

What do you think? Where do expressions of prejudice fall on the freedom of speech line? Is it relevant that these were Karega’s private views that she presumably didn’t intend to teach to her students?


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