NEW YORK (Nov. 5)
Jewish organizations have decried the City University of New York’s decision not to dismiss Professor Leonard Jeffries Jr. as chairman of the black studies department at City College, calling it a “fundamental error” that, in the words of one organization, implies “validation of Jeffries’ anti-Semitic and racist views.”
The City University’s board of trustees voted Oct. 28 to reappoint Jeffries as chairman for a probationary period of one academic year, rather than either dismiss him outright or extend his chairmanship by the customary three-year term.
In July, the trustees will vote again whether to keep Jeffries on as chairman.
City College President Dr. Bernard Harleston said Monday, in an interview with The New York Times, that he decided, despite being offended by Jeffries’ remarks, not to push for Jeffries’ dismissal because it would “deepen the sense of crisis campus” and produce “conflict.”
But an official of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York took issue with that reasoning.
The fact that “a racist can help to create tension and then use it to intimidate a major public institution proves that there is something drastically wrong with the process,” said Kenneth Bialkin, NYJCRC’s president, in a statement.
The decision to permit Jeffries to continue as chairman of the black studies department “sends the ugly message that it is acceptable academic behavior to distort history and promote racism and anti-Semitism to further a perverse agenda,” said Pam Shafler, chair of ADL’s New York regional board, in a statement.
‘A FUNDAMENTAL ERROR’
City University’s trustees “made a fundamental error,” said Alfred Moses, president of the American Jewish Committee, in a statement. “It said that the preaching of hatred should not disqualify the bestowing of honors, that political expediency is more important than a strong stand against bigotry,” he said.
He also urged the trustees to reconsider their decision. “The fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry on campus requires the leadership to act and speak decisively,” he said.
The area division of B’nai Brith pledged to monitor Jeffries on and off campus until his chairmanship is reconsidered by the university.
“We feel it imperative that Professor Jeffries be tracked at every opportunity both in the classroom and in his public appearances to be able to confront him, if still necessary, in eight months with hard evidence of his racism and bigotry,” announced Harold Shulman, president of District One B’nai B’rith, in a statement.
Jeffries sparked outrage and racial tension between blacks and Jews in New York after speaking at a state-sponsored cultural conference in Albany last July. In his speech, which was laced with anti-Semitism, he accused “Russian Jewry” of conspiring with the Mafia to “put together a system of destruction of black people.”
He also described Diane Ravitch, an assistant United States Secretary of Education, as a “sophisticated Texas Jew,” and on another occasion described a colleague at the college as the “head Jew.”