MICHAEL C. DUKE, Jewish Herald-Voice
January 05, 2012
More than 40 percent of Jewish college students have encountered anti-Semitism on their campuses, according to new findings published by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.
IJCR’s report, "Alone on the Quad: Understanding Jewish Student Isolation on Campus," found that Jewish students often face anti-Semitism alone, contrary to many other minority groups, and that anti-Semitism is being normalized and underreported on campuses.
Anti-Israel sentiment is creeping into the classroom, as well, the study found. Campus anti-Israel protest frequently targets Jews.
"Ample anecdotal evidence suggests that, over the last decade, Jewish college students have faced rising levels of anti-Semitism on campuses across the United States," the report states. "[Anti-Israel] divestment campaigns, protests, rallies, guerrilla theater and inflammatory speakers have featured anti-Jewish rhetoric. With insufficient response from administrators, these events have developed into hostile environments, where Jewish students and others have been maligned and threatened."
The study also found that the majority of non-Jewish students do not hold opinions on Israel.
The findings were gleaned from a larger study of college student experiences with religious intolerance on campus. The IJCR’s "Study of Religious Tolerance on Campus" surveyed more than 1,400 students across the country, including oversamples of minority religious groups.
More than two in five Jewish students confirm anti-Semitism on their campuses, according to the report.
"Every campus is different, but a national average of 43 percent warrants attention and demonstrates the existence of a problem," the report states.
The study found a disparity between Jewish student perceptions of anti-Semitism on their campuses, at 43 percent, versus 11 percent of non-Jewish students who recognize the existence of anti-Jewish bigotry on campus. The disparity highlights the isolation Jewish students face in confronting anti-Semitism.
"Whether non-Jewish students don’t know anti-Semitism when they see it, disagree with Jewish students on the definition of anti-Semitism or condone it, the result is the same," the report states. "The Jewish student community is often alone in attempting to raise awareness, spur administrative action or rally campus support."
The number of Jewish students confirming the existence of anti-Semitism on campus is a problem that is compounded by the lack of obvious allies on campus to which students can turn for support, the report states.
Normalized and underreported
More students reported specific statements of anti-Semitism on campus than reported anti-Semitism, in general. This finding suggests that students disagree on the definition of anti-Semitism, according to the report.
"Perhaps, many do not consider rhetoric or stereotypes meaningful offensive behavior. Yet, one must consider that college campuses are particularly sensitive to issues of tolerance and whether similar rhetoric about other minority groups would be tolerated," the report states.
This particular finding contradicts claims that Jews are quick to play the anti-Semitism card, the report notes. That Jewish and non-Jewish students, alike, dismiss a significant proportion of the anti-Semitic rhetoric they encounter suggests that anti-Jewish sentiment on campus is becoming an accepted norm.
The report states that such a trend "can quickly devolve into an environment where Jews feel unsafe and unwanted."
"The dismissal of anti-Jewish statements is particularly troubling considering the high level of vigilance against most forms of racism and bigotry on campus," states the report.
Some 41 percent of Jewish students have encountered anti-Israel remarks made in class by professors, confirming that anti-Israel activism on campus is impacting the academic experience of students, the study found.
"Faculty play a significant role in forming student opinions, especially where they cross over from instruction to indoctrination," according to the report.
"Many students do not hold strong opinions on the Middle East conflict and are particularly susceptible to accepting faculty points of view as truth, especially when offered in class," the report adds. Because of this, many non-Jewish students don’t recognize anti-Israel comments that are made in class. Mormon students, 25 percent of whom reported anti-Israel indoctrination in the college classroom, however, are an exception.
About a third of Jewish students agree that anti-Israel protest targets Jews, according to findings.
While the line between anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment can be blurred, anti-Israel protest lowers the norms against anti-Jewish bigotry, the report states.
Anti-Israel protest "provides a convenient venue for anti-Semitic expression and embraces anti-Semitic stereotypes, under the guise of political activism," according to the report.
Despite the prevalence of Israel activism on campus, both against and in support of the Jewish state, most students do not hold opinions on Israel and the Middle East vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This finding is significant, the IJCR report states, "signaling the opportunity to educate about Israel and the need to develop more engaging approaches."
"Alone on the Quad" can be viewed at jewishresearch.org.