As many of you are aware there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the appointment of Professor N. Bruce Duthu as Dean of the Faculty at Dartmouth College. There have been many voices within the school who have weighed in on the story as to whether or not Duthu supports BDS or denounced his support for BDS. This is something we at SPME have been concerned about as well.
Duthu was quoted saying that, “In my role as Associate Dean for International Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs, I have embraced” the position of the Dartmouth president, who rejected BDS in 2013. “[A]s Dean of the Faculty, I will continue to fully support it [the president’s position],” He continued to say that “subjects that are particularly contentious, divisive or polarizing, such as the issue of academic boycotts generally or criticism of the state of Israel,” it is his “firm expectation” that they will be discussed with “open and civil discourse.” And then went on to say that he “condemn[s] anti-Semitism.”
In particular, the Dartmouth Jewish Studies Program, led by Susannah Heschel, has come out strongly to defend Duthu, claiming he is a ‘Great Friend’ Who Is ‘Very Supportive’ of Judaic, Israel Studies.
As we are firm believers in honest discourse and a free exchange of ideas we are sharing with our readers the letter submitted to us from the members of the Dartmouth Jewish Studies Program in response to our statement.
Asaf Romirowsky, PhD
Dartmouth Jewish Studies Response to the appointment of Professor Bruce Duthu
We, members of the Dartmouth Jewish Studies Program, would like to share our response to the SPME’s recent expression of concern regarding the appointment of Professor Bruce Duthu to the position of the Dean of Faculty at Dartmouth College. We are writing as scholars and teachers who have long standing ties to Israeli scholars and institutions (indeed, one of us holds a PhD from the Hebrew University-Jerusalem). We believe that previous statements concerning this appointment have provided a very partial picture of the issue, which does not fairly represent Professor Duthu’s or Dartmouth’s stands on Israel and academic freedom. These statements may cause considerable damage to the Jewish Studies program here, and we would like to address them with the outmost urgency.
First, and most important, we would like members of the SPME to recognize that Professor Duthu is not and never has been a member or supporter of the BDS movement. In fact, the exact opposite is the case. While he signed his professional association’s statement in 2013 condemning the Israeli government’s policies, he has been a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of engagement with Israeli scholars and academic institutions. As Associate Dean, he has been extraordinarily helpful to our Program in bringing professors from Israeli universities each year to teach at Dartmouth, including leading scholars from Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. He also supported Dartmouth’s exchange program for students to and from Israeli universities. We can attest personally that in his position, he has helped and encouraged our own work and visits to Israel, and our collaboration with friends and scholars there. In fact, Professor Duthu has been invited to lecture at Hebrew University in the fall of 2017, and he has accepted with enthusiasm. A few days ago, in a written statement to all members of the Dartmouth faculty, he again reiterated his opposition boycotts and reiterated his commitment to our college’s stance on the issue, which has been articulated many times over the years (see for example Dartmouth President’s statement from 2013). To portray his appointment as an act of discrimination or threat to academic dialogue is misleading at best, and deeply unfair to his own record.
Second, we believe it crucial to clarify that Professor Duthu enjoys the overwhelming support of Dartmouth’s faculty, including the members of the Jewish Studies Program, who see in him a friend and ally. The SPME’s earlier statement relied substantially on the message circulated by our colleague, Professor Alan Gustman, who objected to Professor Duthu’s appointment. While we all respect Professor Gustman and his right to express his view, they do not represent the opinions of the faculty in any way. In fact, many members of the Jewish Studies Program have reached out to Professor Gustman and requested that he discusses his statement with us or with Professor Duthu, as well as his claims that Dartmouth suffers from anti-Semitism. He has declined them all, and in fact has never attended any event of the Jewish Studies Program. He does not speak for us, for the Jewish Studies Program, or for the Dartmouth community. Let us be clear: all of us oppose academic boycotts of any kind, on Israel or elsewhere. Professor Gustman’s belief that our support for Professor Duthu’s appointment shows otherwise is simply not true.
Finally, we strongly object to any insinuation that our college does not fully and strongly support all aspects of Jewish life, scholarship, teaching, and communities. Under the leadership Professor Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth has established one of the most vibrant and successful Jewish Studies programs in the country. Almost third of our students attend Jewish Studies classes during their time at Dartmouth, and the program is proud of its cooperation with many units and departments across campus. The false accusations and misleading depictions of our campus as somehow hostile to Israeli or Jewish members of the community is already inflicting great damage on these efforts, and can sabotage the wonderful work that is being done here. We therefore encourage everyone not to be part of this damaging process, and instead to join us in building a community based on mutual respect and open discussion.
Professor Susannah Heschel (Chair, Jewish Studies Program/Department of Religion)
Professor Jonathan Smolin (Chair, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures/Jewish Studies Program)
Professor Udi Greenberg (Department of History/Jewish Studies Program)