Embattled Oberlin President Announces Resignation After String of Scandals
September 6, 2016
Following a string of scandals that erupted after The Tower reported that an Oberlin College professor had posted anti-Semitic material on Facebook, Marvin Krislov announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president of the private liberal arts school at the end of the 2017 academic year.
The Tower reported in February that Joy Karega, an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition, called the Islamic State “a CIA and Mossad operation,” endorsed claims that “Israeli and Zionist Jews” were behind the 9/11 attacks, and accused Jewish banker Jacob Rothschild of controlling “your news, the media, your oil, and your government.” Despite national coverage and outrage, Krislov’s first response to the postings was hesitant, writing a day after the news broke that “Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.” A second statement released by Krislov the following week distanced the school from Karega’s comments, but did not explicitly condemn them.
The university’s failure to denounce Karega’s views was criticized by Kenneth Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. “This is really outrageous conduct by the professor, and the university should address it promptly, effectively, and consistent with all of the university’s own internal policies,” he told The Tower at the time. “The question is not whether the professor is free to say outrageous things or to post hateful materials but whether the university will meet its obligation to address the resulting harm to the students.”
Seth Frantzman, the op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post, similarly wrote, “Propagating anti-Semitism on social media is public. You can’t expect an African-American student to take a class from a professor who proudly posts about the greatness of the KKK, and you can’t expect students to accept a professor who shares claims the Rothschilds are behind AIDs and downing airliners.”
In contrast to Krislov, Oberlin College Board of Trustees chair Clyde McGregor unequivocally condemned Karega’s comments as “anti-Semitic and abhorrent” in a statement released a week after they came to light, and asked the school to “challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings.”
In April, Melissa Landa, president of the Oberlin chapter of Alums for Campus Fairness, issued a statement charging that the “persistent hostile campus atmosphere” had been reported by Jewish students several months earlier, but the college’s administration had taken no action. Landa called on the administration to acknowledge the seriousness of the anti-Semitism on campus, and address it effectively in order to restore Oberlin’s “legacy of academic rigor and social justice.”
About the same time, Emily Shire of The Daily Beast quoted a group of Jewish Oberlin students who identified as “not anti-Zionist” and said they “feel increasingly threatened, censored, and silenced by their peers and the Oberlin community who are impatient and dismissive of complaints of anti-Semitism.” Shire observed that Oberlin, “a standout even among the safe space’-friendly environs of small liberal arts colleges,” has a “big exception: Jews and especially those who voice (even mildly) favorable views of Israel.”
Last month, Karega was put on paid leave and barred from campus while the university reviewed her case.
In its statement announcing Krislov’s resignation, who became the college’s president in 2007, Oberlin credited him with leading “efforts to make Oberlin more diverse, inclusive, and accessible to students from every socioeconomic background” and with completing a seven-year campaign that exceeded its fundraising goals. In addition to his duties as president, Krislov taught a politics course every semester during his tenure.
“Marvin has always embraced Oberlin’s students and its great tradition of transformational teaching, research, scholarship and mentoring,” McGregor, the head of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, said after Krislov’s announcement. “I deeply appreciate his unwavering leadership and vision through good times and difficult times. His many contributions will benefit generations to come.”
Plans to choose a new president will be announced “in the coming weeks” by the Board of Trustees, the university said.