Please feel free to copy and paste the below letter to add your voice on this important issue.
Subject: Academic Freedom Is No Excuse for Antisemitism
Dear President Hall, Vice-President Academic and Provost Kuehne, Dr. Schallié and Dr. Weaver,
We write to you today as members of the community concerned by the course on antisemitism to be taught by Dr. Shamma Boyarin in the upcoming Fall 2021 semester. At this time of rising antisemitism in Canada and across the Western World, more academic engagement on this subject is welcome, but we have serious concerns about Dr. Boyarin’s fitness for this role.
As you are likely already aware, in recent months, Dr. Boyarin has publicly called Abe Foxman – the immediate past president of the ADL – a “Zionist pig,” baselessly accused North American Jews of complicity in genocide, and stated his intention to mock a victim of online antisemitism as part of his course syllabus.
To state the obvious, this is unacceptable. Neither UVic nor any reputable university would ever allow someone who called a Black community leader a “racist pig,” accused Black Canadians of complicity in genocide, or gave notice that he intended to mock a victim of anti-Black racism to teach a course on anti-Black racism. To do so would be academic misfeasance, not academic freedom. Moreover, there is no evidence online that Dr. Boyarin has prior experience teaching or writing academically about antisemitism.
We acknowledge and welcome UVic’s decision to re-orient Dr. Boyarin’s course away from modern antisemitism toward medieval Christian antisemitism. However, given his publicly stated intentions, this is not enough. We insist that the following additional safeguards be put in place, to ensure that this course does not became a platform for promoting hostility against Jews, instead of combatting it:
- UVic should publish online the syllabus for Dr. Boyarin’s revamped course;
- UVic should commit to cancelling the course if it is used to attack the Jewish community in any way; and
- UVic should follow in the footsteps of Oxford and Cambridge in formally adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, to avoid future confusion about what is or is not antisemitism.
Please let us know as soon as possible how UVic intends to approach this important issue.