Home News Vassar College’s president caved to Israel-hate

Vassar College’s president caved to Israel-hate

Vassar was one of many colleges where anti-Israel students erected a “solidarity with Gaza” encampment this spring. And like several others, Vassar took the appeasement route. What we find particularly shameful is that its president, Elizabeth Bradley, sought to quiet several concerned alumni with private messages of empathy that were dramatically different in tone from her public pronouncements. Apparently, Vassar has one message for its pro-Israel alumni and another for the wider Vassar community.

The encampment was led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group with a long, inglorious history at Vassar, which includes posting a Nazi cartoon on social media and launching BDS campaigns on the eve of significant Jewish holidays. Not only did these students violate college assembly rules by loud drum banging and calls for the eradication of Israel (among other chants), they invited outside agitators to join and were seen on video in a mob hounding Bradley.

In a May 2 ”Campus Update,” Bradley issued a community-wide message acknowledging the violations but signaling that she would cave to the students’ demands. And cave she did, in a May 4 update that accepted much of SJP’s anti-Israel agenda, failing even to mention (much less empathize with) the suffering that many Jews, including Vassar students, experienced in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks.

Among Vassar’s concessions were “prioritiz[ing]” review of investments in defense companies (clearly intended to damage Israel without explicitly violating New York’s anti-BDS laws), and inviting the rule-breaking students to advocate their cause before two Board of Trustees committees.

Bradley also committed to expanding the curriculum on “topics of Peace and Conflict Studies and/or Middle Eastern Studies,” recruiting and supporting “Palestinian students and scholars at risk, who have lost educational and professional opportunities since Oct. 7” and “recogniz[ing] the growing anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism that affects our students’ experiences.”

One might have assumed from Bradley’s May 4 update that Vassar is a hotbed of Islamophobia and that Palestinian claims are ignored by faculty and students alike. The exact opposite is true. SJP regularly stages “pro-Palestinian” events which, like its yearly Israel Apartheid Week, are little more than demonizations of Israel.

A fervently anti-Zionist mindset pervades the faculty, many of whom have repeatedly signed on to statements characterizing Israel as “apartheid,” guilty of “ethnic cleansing,” and otherwise irredeemably evil. For almost two decades, Vassar’s only course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been taught by an avowed anti-Zionist who once candidly warned that students should not expect an “objective account” of a “two-sided” conflict.

Alumni who have repeatedly beseeched Vassar to hire a faculty member with an unbiased outlook (and with credentials in Israeli Studies) were told that Vassar is too small to warrant the expense of additional faculty.

But now, Vassar is apparently not too small to warrant the costs of bringing in “Palestinian scholars.” Students who disrupt Study Week, bully their fellow students and the administration, and chant for the murder of Jews hold more sway than alumni who have demonstrated years of commitment (financially and otherwise) to their alma mater.

To quiet outraged alumni, Bradley individually emailed a lengthy mea culpa, admitting she had been “remiss” for ignoring the Hamas atrocities. She acknowledged that “language that calls for or encourages the destruction of Israel creates a hostile environment” and “deeply affects our students,” and that Vassar has much work to do “to address antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on campus.”

But when requested to make this mea culpa public, she dithered. Ultimately, her May 8 “Campus Update” (addressed “To Alums”) was quite different in tone. Gone were the acknowledgments of the prevailing anti-Israel bias on campus and that calls for the eradication of Israel make for a hostile environment.

Most appallingly, Bradley adopted the terrorists’ talking points, equating Israel’s defensive war and Hamas terrorism. The horror of the Hamas atrocities apparently cannot be publicly condemned by Vassar without also citing the “killing of Palestinians by Israel’s military response” and the “continued decimation of homes, schools, hospitals and families in Gaza” (ignoring that all of these are used by Hamas as human shields).

Bradley’s appeasement will not open the minds of its rabidly Israel-hating students and faculty. Indeed, SJP greeted Vassar’s concessions with an announcement of dissatisfaction. And more than 100 Vassar faculty and staff signed on to a public statement full of their usual unhinged rhetoric.

Nor will Bradley’s selective messaging restore our faith in Vassar. Rather it has confirmed that in dealing with the pervasive anti-Israel bias that distorts the pedagogy and promotes antisemitism on campus, Vassar will be guided by politics, not principle.

The authors are Vassar graduates: Benswanger ’75, Josephs ’78, Maidens ’74, Tallmer ’74.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here