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East Carolina SGA Supports Anti-Semitism Resolution


Edward Kunz, Brandeis Blog

April 3, 2017
 

In March, the Student Government Association (SGA) of East Carolina University (ECU), located in Greenville, North Carolina, voted to “take a stand with the Jewish community at [ECU].” The SGA passed a bill which seeks, in the words of it sponsors, to “[define] what anti-Semitism is” and to bring awareness to “what’s going on around the world” in regards to anti-Semitism. The bill defines anti-Semitism as the “bigoted targeting of a historically oppressed minority” and notes that this issue “should be taken as seriously as bigotry against all other historically oppressed minorities.” The bill also utilizes the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, the same definition used in the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act bill, which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in December.

The SGA also stated their intentions to show its support and act as allies to student groups including East Carolina Hillel and Pirates for Israel, “to help foster a better understanding of Judaism and American-Jewish identity.” In order to meet this goal, the SGA plans to “actively work with Jewish student organizations and maintain an open dialogue with leaders of the Jewish community at ECU about issues important to the ECU community at large.” ECU has largely been spared anti-Semitic incidents on their campus, but there has been at least one instance of anti-Semitic graffiti found on campus.

Votes of this nature are not limited to universities within the United States. Ryerson University, located in Toronto, also recently saw the Ryerson Student Union adopt a definition of anti-Semitism, as found in the “Ottawa Protocol.” According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs, a Canadian Jewish advocacy organization, Ryerson is the first Canadian university to adopt the Ottawa Protocol, a definition of anti-Semitism similar to the definition used by the U.S. State Department. This new definition comes after reports that the head of a university program “resigned over anti-Semitic tweets.” This effort at Ryerson, along with the similar effort at ECU, show the commitments of these universities to challenging the toxic atmosphere spread by BDS and other sources of anti-Semitism.

While ECU may not have had many notable instances of BDS or anti-Semitic activity, several of its collegiate neighbors, such Duke and UNC, certainly have. Duke and UNC have both seen “Apartheid Week” events hosted on their campuses, and both also have active chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. The student government of East Carolina University, meanwhile, is walking in stride with the legislature of North Carolina, it is addressing potential campus anti-Semitism before it occurs. The North Carolina legislature recently saw the N.C. House pass H.B. 161, an anti-BDS and pro-Israel bill. The swift passage of H.B. 161 coincides with the recent passage of a similar bill in the South Carolina House, as well as the upcoming hearings for another similar piece of legislation in the Tennessee Senate.  The actions taken by ECU show its commitment to fighting for minority rights, rights that many of the states are also taking a proactive approach in defending.

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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Tammi Rossman Benjamin
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is cofounder and director of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that investigates, documents and combats anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America, and was a faculty member in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of California from 1996 - 2016.
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