Regular readers may recall that Connecticut College philosophy professor Andrew Pessin was the target of what amounted to a hoax accusing him of expressing racist [and in one accusation, genocidal] sentiments against Palestinians. Campus activists circulated a Facebook post he wrote in which he denounced Hamas (he compared it to a rabid pit bull, which, as I’ve noted,is grossly unfair to rabid pit bulls), cut off the comment section to the post where he removed any ambiguity that he was referring to Hamas and not Palestinians in general, and, with the complicity of the school newspaper, made Pessin the subject of a campus-wide and ultimately national campaign of vilification. This included various academic departments in the university and even the university president denouncing Pessin’s alleged “hateful” rhetoric, and a campus-wide forum in which Pessin’s few defenders were heckled.
Months later, Pessin, driven off campus by the stress of the two-minutes hate, still has not resumed his teaching duties. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger recently published an update on Pessin, which asks pertinent questions, including the following:
1. Given that the attacks on Pessin turned out to be the product of a hoax, “why has Conn College not removed online statements from academic departments and campus programs denouncing Pessin’s language as racist and bigoted?”
2. “Students and administration claimed their actions [criticizing Pessin] were not intended to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why, then, was so much of the interim deans’ programming [announced in response to the Pessin and other incidents] geared toward this topic? And, why was it heavily skewed toward a pro-Palestinian bias, with an occasional left-leaning pro-Israel viewpoint? Why was there not a single Israeli among the many speakers and panelists?”
3. Given that Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron based her statements critical of Pessin on misinformation, why has she not publicly apologized?
Allow me to add two more questions:
4. Why was no investigation commenced, much less any disciplinary action taken, against the students who libeled one of their professors and brought the college into international disrepute? The College Honor Code pledge states, among other things, “We will never, by any selfish or other unworthy act, dishonor this our College.”
5. Why were both the Hillel director and the Jewish chaplain on campus unwilling to publicly defend Pessin against false charges? Worse yet, why was the Hillel student leadership (from what I heard from knowledgeable sources) discouraged from coming to Pessin’s defense?
It strikes me that the college’s playbook has been to ignore the controversy and hope it went away over the summer without any consequences for any of the bad actors. It didn’t.
David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA. His latest book, Lawless: The Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, will be published in November.