NEW YORK (Aug. 25)
Dr. James M. Hester, president of New York University, has defended the appointment of John F. Hatchett as director of the school’s new Afro-American Student Center. The former Harlem teacher has been widely denounced as anti-Semitic. At the same time, Dr. Hester disclosed that the university, in an unusual action, had explained the Hatchett appointment in a letter to its 160,000 alumni, more than a third of whom are estimated to be Jewish.
The alumni mailing included a statement by Mr. Hatchett that “I am not an anti-Semite” and declaring that his controversial article in a 1967 issue of the Afro-American Teachers Forum was meant to be an attack on the “establishment” and not on “Jews because they are Jews.” The article blamed “the Jews who dominate and control the educational bureaucracy of the New York public school system” for alleged lack of progress by Negro pupils. It was assailed as “black Nazism” in a joint statement from the American Jewish Congress, the Catholic Inter-racial Council and the Protestant Council, and criticized by other Jewish and civil rights groups.
Dr. Hester, in an interview with the New York Times, upheld Mr. Hatchett’s disclaimer of anti-Semitic intent, saying that if he thought the Harlem teacher was an anti-Semite “in the classic sense, we could not keep him in the position.” On Aug. 9, Dr. Hester had announced that, acting on advice from former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, the university would not cancel the appointment. Mr. Goldberg’s advice was requested by Dr. Hester and arranged by McGeorge Bundy, Ford Foundation president.
Dr. Hester said, in the interview, that he did not think Mr. Hatchett was prejudiced against Jews “as an ethnic group” but rather that his controversial article was meant to be critical of “what he considers to be the Establishment in the public schools.” Dr. Hester added that he thought “it is true that there is a preponderance of Jewish teachers and administrators” and that it was to this that Mr. Hatchett had referred. Asked why the new director should have found it necessary to name any ethnic group, Dr. Hester said that Jewish teachers were organized in a Jewish Teachers Association and that “in this way they have drawn attention to the fact that they are Jewish teachers.” The NYU head added that he could understand how Mr. Hatchett could make such a reference to Jews “when there is an organization that calls itself the Jewish Teachers Organization.”
Dr. Hester also said that “in a system in which teachers are organized — the Jewish teachers, the Catholic teachers — and in which a preponderance do happen to be Jewish. I could understand how someone might make such references and at the same time not be anti-Semitic.” Dr. Hester was critical of the description of the Hatchett article as “black Nazism,” asserting that “we have a very serious responsibility” to be “quite precise” in dealing with such “inflammatory issues.”