At Dartmouth, Professor Gustman protests

At Dartblog, Joe Asch has posted the email sent by Loren Berry Professor of Economics Alan Gustman to his faculty colleagues along with additional material of interest. In the message Professor Gustman protests the selection by President Phil Hanlon of Bruce Duthu as Dean of Faculty. Professor Gustman calls out Duthu for his support of the anti-Israel BDS movement. Frontpage has posted the message here. Below is Professor Gustman’s message, posted here with his kind permission:

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, Dartmouth has appointed N. Bruce Duthu as its new Dean of the Faculty. What you may not know is that Professor Duthu is an active advocate of the BDS movement, a movement that proposes boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israeli academic institutions. As the Treasurer of the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), Professor Duthu coauthored a statement in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions as follows: “The NAISA Council encourages NAISA members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies.” The document our presumptive Dean coauthored can be found at (scroll down to “NAISA Council Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”).

In advocating the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, BDS is anti-Semitic. The chant of the BDS movement, from the river to the sea, is anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and profoundly anti- Jewish. It refers to sweeping the Jews out of Israel. Where else do we find movements advocating action against the academic institutions in any country but Israel, including many truly bad actors in the world? BDS is singling out Israel – the one country in the world that has a majority Jewish population. Indeed, this movement has become a cover for many anti-Semites who like nothing better than to once again be free to exercise their prejudices. It also is important to understand, especially when evaluating the significance of appointing a BDS advocate as the Dean of the Faculty, that BDS is not just a statement of beliefs or a philosophical movement: it is a statement of action.

Given my concerns about this matter I wrote letters to President Hanlon, to Professor Duthu, and individually to members of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees. President Hanlon responded that he would never accept anti-Semitism at Dartmouth and reminded me of a letter he circulated to the Dartmouth campus against any boycott advocated by the BDS movement. Professor Duthu also states that he is not anti-Semitic and would not permit anti-Semitic acts at Dartmouth. Some of his friends, including those from the Jewish Studies Program, also argue that he is not anti-Semitic. In personal correspondence he cites a portion of the resolution as a defense of his position: “The NAISA statement, which you can find on the organization’s website, explicitly champions and defends intellectual and academic freedom with a recognition that ‘collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice.'” Note that this statement does not support academic freedom in general. It supports Professor Duthu’s notion of justice. No member of the Board of Trustees responded to my email.

I have no reason to believe that Professor Duthu is anti-Semitic. His friends and colleagues do not consider him to be anti-Semitic, and are sincere in their opinions. What is relevant here is that he is supporting a movement that is substantially anti-Semitic, and that he has taken a position with regard to the BDS movement that is in opposition to the position and responsibilities he will have as Dean of the Faculty. Most importantly, he has not publicly renounced his public NAISI statement on the BDS movement.

It is not appropriate to appoint an advocate of BDS to the position of Dean of Faculty, thereby providing the BDS movement with a foothold at the highest levels of our administration. Professor Duthu’s public advocacy of BDS and his responsibilities as Dean of the Faculty are in direct conflict. As Dean Professor Duthu will be exercising decisions about faculty hiring, tenure, and the academic priorities of Dartmouth, including interactions between Dartmouth faculty, Israeli academics and Israeli academic institutions.

These issues are particularly important in light of the unpleasant anti-Semitic history at Dartmouth. That history was discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education by James O. Freedman, Dartmouth’s President from 1987 to 1998 (“Ghosts of the Past: Anti-Semitism at Elite Colleges,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 1, 2000). Freedman’s article also refers to a 1992 Dartmouth honors thesis by Alexandra Shepard detailing more virulent anti-Semitism at Dartmouth in earlier years. Of particular note there is Earnest Hopkins, who was President of Dartmouth for nearly three decades, and was a strong advocate of caps on Jewish enrollments. David T. McLaughlin, Dartmouth President from 1981 to 1987, noted in an oral history that anti-Semitism hampered the presidency of his predecessor John Kemeny, a Jewish born president of Dartmouth who served from 1970 to 1981. McLaughlin also indicated that anti-Semitism interfered with the appointment of a Jewish member of the Board of Trustees as Chairman of the Board.

A central issue is the failure of the President, the Board and even some in the Jewish Studies program at Dartmouth to appreciate the broader symbolism of appointing an active BDS advocate to the leadership of the Faculty of an Ivy League Institution. The responses are along the lines of: he is a nice guy, and I wouldn’t permit (the President) or he would not really act to implement the BDS program. It’s nice to have faith that you know a person so well he would never implement what he advocates. That mistake has been made throughout history. If there is anyone who cannot afford to once again take a person’s word that he doesn’t mean what he says, it is any Jewish person with a memory.

In view of Dartmouth’s anti-Semitic history and Professor Duthu’s endorsement of the anti-Semitic BDS document, Dartmouth must not simply appoint Duthu to the position of Dean of the Faculty and ignore the implications of that appointment. Professor Duthu should either publicly disavow the full ramifications of the BDS positions he has publicly endorsed, or resign his position as Dean and return to his faculty position where expression of these views is sanctioned as academic freedom, but is not representative of Dartmouth College or its faculty. He cannot, without contradiction, 1) assure council signers of the NAISA document and holders of their position of his support for action to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and at the same time 2) administer his job as Dean of the Faculty, while assuring Dartmouth that he will not take such action. Given its history, Dartmouth cannot turn a blind eye to this contradiction. These issues must be directly and publicly addressed by the Dean, the President and by the Board. Papering over hypocrisy and prejudice is no way to run an Ivy League College administration.

To be sure, the progress of anti-Semitism on campus is not just a Dartmouth problem – although appointing an active BDS advocate to Dean of the Faculty represents a unique failure to deal with anti-Semitism on campus. BDS is making inroads into many college campuses. It is time for faculty, students, administrators and Boards to clearly and vocally oppose this anti-Semitic movement, rather than sitting quietly and allowing this cancer to spread.

Alan Gustman
Lorenz Berry Professor of Economics
Dartmouth College

UPDATE: Professor Gustman forwards a link to Stephen Smith’s Jewish Journal column “Dartmouth dean’s academic boycott hasn’t been forgotten—and shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

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