The chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign publicly denounced antisemitism on American campuses following a letter- writing campaign organized by students expressing concern over recent actions by anti-Israel campus groups in which they observed racist activity.
Pro-Israel student group IlliniPAC told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that together with other pro-Israel and Jewish organizations, students had expressed their frustrations over a lack of response to said incidents and called on the school administration to issue a condemnation and take meaningful action.
Chancellor Robert J. Jones, in a letter shared on Facebook by IlliniPAC on Monday, addressed students, faculty and staff, and expressed concerned about growing instances of intolerance in the US, particularly on college campuses.
“Painted swastikas, chalked epithets on sidewalks, KKK costumes and antisemitic attacks hidden under the guise of anti-Zionist rhetoric are all too common,” Jones wrote.
“Members of our Jewish, African- American, Latino/a and many other residents of our diverse community find themselves asking whether they are welcome and safe here. The answer to that – whether in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, or any place in this country – must be a clear and resounding: ‘Yes, you are.’” Elan Karoll, co-president of IlliniPAC, told the Post: “Chancellor Jones speaks for all of us when he says that ‘bigotry, racism and hate will never be tolerated here at [the University of] Illinois.’ I am proud that the chancellor has heard the voices of Illinois students and has finally spoken up.”
“As a Jewish student, it is good to know that the university cares about my safety and takes these concerns very seriously,” he said, saying that the students will continue to advocate for concrete steps to be taken toward protecting pro-Israel and Jewish students.
“We believe that those individuals and organizations who perpetuate this hate must be held accountable. We will continue our efforts until that is achieved,” Karoll said.
Earlier this month, IlliniPAC and StandWithUs condemned Students for Justice in Palestine at the university for equating Zionism with white supremacy and fascism in an anti-fascist demonstration it promoted.
In a social media post publicizing the protest titled “Smashing Fascism: Radical Resistance Against White Supremacy,” SJP wrote that “there is no room for fascists, white supremacists, or Zionists at UIUC.” It followed this up with multiple posts explicitly tying Zionism to fascism and white supremacy, and a statement saying that “violent resistance” and even “full-scale armed conflict… has its place.”
Ron Krudo, executive director of campus affairs at Stand- WithUs, said at the time: “Comparing Zionism – the movement for Jewish liberation and self-determination – to ideologies that support oppression and genocide against Jews is grotesquely racist. All of us who support social justice and progressive values should stand together against both the fascism and white supremacy we saw on display in Charlottesville, and this campaign of hate being waged by SJP.”
IlliniPAC released a statement about that event in which it said that it “strongly condemns white supremacy and fascism in every form. Our organization would like to stand in solidarity with our fellow peers, but now do not have that ability due to being isolated for how we identify.”
The group highlighted the university’s Student Code, which states: “Registered Organizations and Registered Student Organizations shall not practice discrimination against a member or prospective member on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation,” and which asks students to live up to values that include “the freedom to learn, free and open expression within limits that do not interfere with respect for the dignity of others, and personal and institutional openness to constructive change.”
IlliniPAC said: “The actions of the organizers are in clear violation of these elements of the Student Code and should be treated as such. Anti-Zionism is the new form of antisemitism and must be recognized and treated promptly with this in mind.”
The chancellor’s statement repeats the aforementioned line from the Student Code and adds: “We will always recognize the rights of those on the campus to safely and freely express their perspectives and opinions. We will also be ready to condemn statements and actions that violate our shared values and seek to demean, intimidate or devalue others in our community.”