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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Guest Column: Empower our students with education

60 AU professors call for Inclusive Excellence

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

We observe with much concern a campus climate where many students, staff and faculty face isolation, rejection and hostility. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 250 others. As a response, Israeli troops invaded Gaza. The death toll among Palestinians has risen to over 34,000, according to Gaza's health ministry. Emotions have been flying high on university campuses in the United States and here at American University. Some of the people killed, abducted and rendered homeless are relatives or friends of our students, staff and faculty. Understandably, this crisis has an influence on the way we talk and relate to each other.

The tragic situation in the Middle East offered a chance to show that our AU community was able to build bridges instead of walls. It offered a chance to lead academic discussions on the history and cause of this conflict by people with subject matter expertise. It allowed students and community members an opportunity to begin to decide for themselves what they believe, apart from the social media and advocacy spaces dominating the conversation. We had an early opportunity to show our students, prospective students and alumni what a real campus community can do while world events unfold. 

Dartmouth College set a good example for a difficult dialogue conducted between campus members with different opinions. It is disheartening that we did not fully rise to the moment to teach and educate across differences of perspective and opinion. Instead, this campus — like so many others — was filled with a rhetoric full of suspicion, threats and boycotts. We must now take steps to educate across our differences.

Recognizing the suffering of the other is a challenge when tensions are high. But that is exactly where we must start. The history of Israel and Palestine has been one of shared suffering. This guest column is not the place to tell the story of this century-old conflict, but to state it is time to recognize the need to educate around a more nuanced picture instead of the black-and-white image many of us have. It is time to empathize with how the “other side” is suffering, too. Oct. 7, the day on which more Jews than at any time since the end of the Holocaust were killed and others kidnapped, constitutes a collective trauma not just for the State of Israel but for Jews all over the world and on this campus. The following months, in which more Palestinians were killed than in any other war since 1948 and many made homeless, constitute a trauma for the Palestinian people at home as well as around the world and on this campus.

The complicated truth is that in this tiny slice of land, there are two groups of victims and two groups of perpetrators, two peoples with historical ties to the same territory and two groups who too often deny the other side’s right of sovereign existence. It is time to acknowledge the suffering of the other, both in the Middle East and outside, and come together to think about how things got here and contemplate real paths of change.

It is time to speak with each other, to discuss different narratives and to disagree. What we have witnessed instead far too often is a boycott of different views, a closing up into our safe bubbles and a simplified rhetoric of aggression. Many students, staff and faculty have faced unprecedented alienation and hostility on campus.

This is not the way we should conduct ourselves in an academic environment. Faculty have an obligation to set a positive example for students on how to engage in the most difficult of dialogues. We can do better and create a coalition of people willing to make this a teachable moment. We ask everyone willing to do so to join us. We invite deep academic disagreement as part of these discussions.

To colleagues and students who call for a boycott of Israeli or Palestinian voices or who refuse to speak to each other, we urge you to consider that persuasion requires communication, not cancellation. At AU, our task is to jump right in and not be afraid to engage in a critical discourse about Israel and Palestine. Our mission is to teach classes with several points of view and listen to speakers with a broad diversity of opinions, allowing our students to form their own educated opinions. Our mission is to educate and provide students with the tools to fully understand complex problems and not to be satisfied with one-dimensional slogans.

To parents and benefactors of our University who are worried about campus antisemitism and Islamophobia, please know that we have the ability to beat back those viruses on our campus, so long as we build bridges and not walls between community members. We invite the University leadership to help us create an active dialogue between subject matter experts in classrooms and broader campus activities. To achieve our mission of education, we need to act to avoid the violent campus atmosphere that we have seen on other campuses around the country. Together, we can show what Inclusive Excellence can mean here on our campus.

Signed by:

Daniel Abraham, Professor of Music, Chair of  Department of Performing Arts, CAS

Frank Armour, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Technology & Analytics, KSB

Boaz Atzili, Associate Professor, SIS

Patricia Aufderheide, University Professor, SOC

Karen Baehler, Scholar-in-Residence, Department of Public Administration and Policy, SPA

David C. Barker, Professor of Government and Director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, SPA

Laura Beers, Professor of History, CAS

Braxton Boren, Associate Professor, Audio Technology, CAS

Michael Brenner, Distinguished Professor of History and Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies, CAS

Amb (ret.) Piper Anne Wind Campbell, Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, SIS

Erran Carmel, Professor, Department of Information Technology & Analytics, KSB

Keith Darden, Associate Professor, SIS

Pasha Dashtgard, Research Assistant Professor, Justice, Law & Criminology and Director of Research, PERIL Institute, SPA

Andrew Demshuk, Professor of History, CAS

Daniel Dreisbach, Professor, Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, SPA

Frank DuBois, Associate Professor, KSB

Chris Edelson, Assistant Professor of Government, SPA

Todd Eisenstadt, Professor of Government, SPA

Michelle Engert, Senior Scholar in Residence, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology, SPA

Max Paul Friedman, Professor of History, CAS

Mary Frances Giandrea, Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, Department of History, CAS

Brett Anitra Gilbert, Kogod Regional Innovation Chair, KSB

Louis W. Goodman, Professor of International Relations, SIS

Gershon Greenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, CAS

Tamar Gutner, Associate Professor, SIS

Brian Hughes, Research Assistant Professor, Justice, Law & Criminology and Co-founder and Executive Director, PERIL Institute, SPA

Janice A. Iwama, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology, SPA

Thomas Kahn, Distinguished Faculty Fellow, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, SPA

Itir Karaesmen Aydin, Associate Professor, KSB

Dan Kopman, Professorial Lecturer, KSB

Alan M. Kraut, Distinguished Professor of History, CAS

Lisa Leff, Professor of History, CAS

Alan Levine, Associate Professor, Department of Government, SPA

Allan J. Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History, CAS

Eric Lohr, Professor of History, CAS

Diane Lowenthal, Senior Professorial Lecturer, SPA

David Lublin, Chair and Professor, Department of Government, SPA

Garret Martin, Senior Professorial Lecturer, SIS

Michael Mass, Associate Professor, KSB

Thomas W. Merrill, Associate Professor, Department of Government, SPA

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Professor, Justice, Law & Criminology and School of Education and Founding Director, PERIL Institute, SPA

Tomasz Mroczkowski, Professor, Department of Management, KSB

Pamela Nadell, Professor and Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s & Gender History, CAS

Saul Newman, Associate Professor, Department of Government, SPA

Ayman Omar, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, KSB

Catherine Schaeff, Associate Professor, Biology, CAS

Richard Sha, Professor of Literature and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy, CAS

Robert Sicina, Professorial Lecturer, KSB

Jay Simon, Associate Professor of Information Technology and Analytics, KSB

Nancy Snider, Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, Department of Performing Arts, CAS

Sarah B. Snyder, Professor, SIS

Jeffrey Sosland, Assistant Professor, Office of Global and Immersive Studies

Ralph Sonenshine, Senior Professorial Lecturer and MA Program Director, Economics Department, CAS

Catalin Stefanescu, Professorial Lecturer, KSB

Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer in Jewish Studies and History, CAS

Jordan Tama, Provost Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Policy and Global Security, SIS

E. Andrew Taylor, Associate Professor of Arts Management, Department of Performing Arts, CAS

Elizabeth A. Worden, Associate Professor and Director International Training and Education Program, SOE

Joe Young, Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology, SPA and SIS

Guy Ziv, Associate Professor, SIS

This piece was edited by Alana Parker, Zoe Bell, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Sarah Clayton.

opinion@theeagleonline.com 


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