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campus administration

Whitten describes IU’s antisemitism prevention, safety measures in response to Jim Banks’ letter

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In a letter sent to U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana obtained by the IDS through a public records request, IU President Pamela Whitten explained IU’s safety procedures and antisemitism prevention measures in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. The letter, sent Dec. 1, was a response to a Nov. 15 letter Banks sent to Whitten warning IU could lose federal funding if it condoned or tolerated antisemitism on campus.  

Increased security for Jewish students 

In the letter, Whitten wrote that immediately following the Oct. 7 attack, the IU Police Department increased police patrols, added new security cameras on campus and established a greater presence around “key campus areas,” including Jewish sororities and fraternities, IU Hillel and Chabad IU.  

In addition to daily contact with local, state and national law enforcement, IU is in regular contact with the Secure Community Network, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the safety of the Jewish community across North America, according to the letter.  

Whitten also wrote the university has regular communication with the Israel on Campus Coalition’s national field director to increase support for Jewish students and implement successful practices from other institutions. 

The ICC is a national pro-Israel organization that describes its mission as instilling pride in Israel and empowering college students to stand up for the country. Founded in 2002, the group aims to ensure a positive U.S.-Israel relationship by improving the campus climate toward Israel to “shape the next generation of American leaders,” according to its website.

A joint investigation by ProPublica and Forward in 2018 found the ICC had created and funded fake Facebook pages to target a Palestinian-American poet that was performing at college campuses in 2016. 

The same investigation includes statements by Jacob Baime, CEO of the ICC, recorded on video by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter in 2016. 

In the video, Baime said ICC officials “coordinate” or “communicate” with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which the ProPublica and Forward investigation describes as “the hub of the Israeli government’s overt and covert efforts against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in the U.S. and around the world.” Chief Operating Officer Ian Hersh added in the video that “in terms of information sharing,” the ministry was added to ICC’s “Operations and Intelligence Brief,” which includes information on targeted pro-Palestinian students and faculty, according to the Nation

Baime described in the video how their system analyzes social media posts from anti-Israel activists on college campuses and alerts their partners if it “rises to a certain level.” Throughout the video, Baime outlines tactics the organization uses to intimidate activists, such as conducting opposition research and creating anonymous websites to target individuals. 

“We built up this massive national political campaign to crush them,” Baime said in the video. 

As universities across the country face pressure for how they’re handling an increase in antisemitism on campus, there is a growing call for colleges to support Palestinian students as well. At IU, the suspension of tenured professor Abdulkader Sinno, who served as faculty advisor for the Palestine Solidarity Committee, and the cancelation of Palestinian artist Samia Halaby’s exhibition — decisions made within five days of each other — have drawn speculation about how IU is handling academic freedom in a charged political environment. Students have also expressed that they feel IU is not supporting Arab, Muslim or Palestinian students. 

At the same time, IU is currently being investigated by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for allegedly failing to address antisemitism. The complaint was one of at least 21 reports filed by Zachary Marschall, editor-in-chief of the conservative media organization Campus Reform.  

RelatedIU faculty and students condemn ‘new McCarthyism’ in free speech rally The rally comes after several controversies on campus.

Responses to Banks’ questions 

In the second half of Whitten’s letter to Banks, Whitten responded directly to each of the questions Banks included in his initial letter.  

She wrote there had been 17 unique incidents of antisemitism reported to the IU Bias Incident Response System from Oct. 7 to Nov. 30 and noted that the IU Antisemitism Advisory Board’s most recent meeting, as of writing the letter, was Nov. 27. At the meeting, the board implemented changes to the bias reporting system after the university conducted a review in summer 2023. This change allows students to select their religion from a dropdown menu rather than having to describe their religion in the incident description text box. 

The board also called for a campaign to encourage more bias incident reporting, which launched during the fall semester. Finally, the board recommended the implementation of antisemitism awareness and prevention programming. According to the letter, this includes a contract with the Anti-Defamation League established Nov. 13 to provide training and professional development to IU campuses through the spring semester. The letter also references a partnership with the Academic Engagement Network to host virtual workshops on antisemitism and Jewish identity, with one having occurred Dec. 7 and the other scheduled for April 2024. 

In response to another board recommendation, the university updated a section of its website to “reaffirm IU’s values in standing against antisemitism and Islamophobia, while clearly documenting definitions of antisemitism.” 

In the letter, Whitten wrote that she and other administrators have met with the advisory board several times since Oct. 7, as well as members of IU’s Jewish community.  

Finally, in response to a question from Banks that probed whether IU received reports of illegal activity after Palestine Solidarity Committee protests on Oct. 9 and 28, Whitten wrote there were no such reports. According to the letter, there was a bias report that Whitten describes as recounting “that groups conversed with each other after events concluded on October 9.”  

Mark Bode, executive director of media relations at IU, said the university has no further comment on the letter. 

   IU president Pamela Whitten's letter to Jim Banks on Dec. 1 by marnmead on Scribd

RelatedIU joins slate of universities investigated by Department of Education for alleged antisemitism Zachary Marschall, editor of a conservative media organization, claims he’s filed 21 complaints.

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