Faculty Against Antisemitism Movement launched

When Professor Ron Hassner made the decision to stage a sit-in protest at his University of California, Berkeley office until the school’s administration agreed to take seriously rising campus antisemitism, several other local professors were inspired to visit the professor of political science in solidarity as he ate and slept in his office — and taught class from there — for two weeks.

Encouraged by Hassner’s activism and the support he received from other concerned faculty, the Academic Engagement Network announced it will coordinate a national campaign called the Faculty Against Antisemitism Movement (FAAM) and #KeepTheLightOn, eJewishPhilanthropy has learned exclusively.

Professor Ron Hassner shows the bed he set up in his office to protest antisemitism at the University of California, Berkeley, in March 2024.Courtesy/Ron Hassner

Courtesy/Ron Hassner

Professor Ron Hassner shows the bed he set up in his office to protest antisemitism at the University of California, Berkeley, in March 2024. Courtesy/Ron Hassner

“In many places, many faculty share a concern about antisemitism but don’t necessarily know one another, so I think networking is crucial,” said Hassner, who ended his protest on March 23, after two weeks, saying the school had made sufficient commitments to satisfy his concerns about the safety of Jewish students on campus. (The “hashtag” for the campaign comes from the fact that Hassner kept his office light on for the entire two weeks of the sit-in.)

The initiatives will provide support to participating faculty, including a website that will be continually updated with information and resources for faculty looking to counter antisemitic and anti-Israel claims and actions, as well as a FAAM social media toolkit, trips that bring American faculty to Israel and support for faculty-focused initiatives, such as developing a database of academics around the U.S. who will serve as reviewers for Israelis who are being ostracized by academic groups, according to AEN.

“Faculty that holds antisemitic or anti-Zionist views are an extreme minority but are often able to monopolize the public sphere because so many faculty are silent, so this won’t take a tremendous amount of effort to signal to campuses that [the] majority of faculty will not stand by when antisemitism or anti-Zionism are aired,” Hassner told eJP.

Faculty for Justice in Palestine chapters have taken root on more than 80 campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. The Faculty Against Antisemitism Movement is designed “to show students that there’s another voice to counter [groups such as] Faculty for Justice in Palestine,” AEN Executive Director Miriam Elman told eJP.

Hassner started his protest by himself, “because I had become impatient with my administration and very soon found that many dozen faculty on my campus, and hundreds across California supported me, wanted to join and formed initiatives on their own campus,” he recalled. “So I think the shared concern is there, and I think the administrations share that concern, too.”

The initiative will harness the 1,000 faculty members on 322 campuses in AEN, according to the group. Michael Saenger, a professor of English at Southwestern University, a liberal arts college in Georgetown, Texas, and a member of FAAM’s steering committee, is one of the educators participating.

“Many Jewish faculty, and many other faculty as well, have been appalled as the energies associated with social justice have veered into ideological conformity, advocacy of violence, and openly antisemitic threats,” Saenger said in a statement. “We have written books, op-eds, and articles, but they are not penetrating the echo chamber of anti-Zionist antisemitism. As with previous protest movements, visual displays are sometimes necessary to get people to stop demonizing marginalized groups. We need to respond to bullying and hate, directed against ourselves and Jewish students, more directly and more personally: by visibly advocating for a university that treats Jews as people, and that treats Israel as a nation.”

Elman said the group plans to provide faculty with several visual materials. “In this first campaign launch, we’re sharing branded items — pens, stickers for the office door, mugs that you can take to the department meeting that says ‘faculty against antisemitism.’”

“Those visual materials help start conversations on campus with other colleagues and administrators,” she said. “Initially we want to share the idea as broadly as possible, through our members and other faculty who sign up.”

The initiative is slated to start in May, as students wrap up the semester, kicking off with the #KeepTheLightOn campaign, encouraging participating faculty to leave a light on in their offices to show support and solidarity for their Jewish students facing antisemitism on campus — just as Hassner did during his protest.

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