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Sit-in at Lehman College to Protest Denial of Tenure to Professor of Judaic Studies

An official of Lehman College said today that some 15 students and rabbis ended a 24-hour peaceful sit-in at the office of college president Leonard Lief around noon when arrangements were made for them to talk to Robert Kibbee, Chancellor of the City University, tomorrow morning. The protesters occupied Lief’s office yesterday in protest against his refusal to grant tenure to Prof. Jane Gerber, who teaches Holocaust studies and Jewish courses at the college.

The protesters, headed by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, represented the Jewish Action Coalition (JAC). comprising members of Hillel, Yavneh, the Jewish Students Union and other campus groups. Prof. Alice Griffin, director of the Lehman College relations office, reported the departure of the demonstrators. She said the arrangements for the meeting with Kibbee were made by Glenn Nygreen. Lehman dean of students.

The JAC charged that Lief’s rejection of a recommendation for tenure for Gerber was the beginning of an attempt to abolish the Judaica department at Lehman College and eventually throughout the City University (CUNY) system of which Lehman is a part. Lief reportedly said that he acted out of “Institutional considerations and noted that there were already two tenured professors in the Judaica department at Lehman.

According to the JAC, the two are linguists and Gerber, who holds a Ph, D. in Jewish and Islamic History, is the only faculty member teaching ancient, medieval, modern and American Jewish history at Lehman. She also conducts a course on the Holocaust.

GERBER CASE SEEN AS LITMUS TEST

Gerber has the support of Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams who addressed a campus rally on her behalf Monday and of the American Jewish Congress. On March 9, Sylvia Deutsch, director of the AJ Congress’ Metropolitan Council wrote to Kibbee to reverse Lief’s decision. Deutsch described the Gerber case as a “litmus test” of CUNY’s commitment to Jewish studies and noted that enrollment in Gerber’s courses represented 50 percent of the students in the Jewish studies unit, about a quarter of whom are non-Jewish.

“Consistently, Prof. Gerber’s courses have attracted sizeable numbers of students,” Deutsch wrote. According to a JAC spokesman about 168 students are enrolled in Gerber’s courses and 257 are enrolled in Jewish studies at Lehman. Total enrollment in the college, located in The Bronx, is about 12,000.

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