Letter to the Editor: Newman’s response

Written By Channa Newman, For the Globe

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Dear Ms. Collins and Ms. Hronec,

May I add a few comments as a follow-up to your article “Professor files 18-count lawsuit against university?” At least two points require clarification.

First, the statement provided by Dr. Ross, which you published, neglects to recognize that I was found innocent of the false Title IX charge:  “This lawsuit attempts to use my work in the movement for Palestinian human rights as a basis to attack my support for students who felt victimized by a professor last academic year.”

This is concerning because it suggests that I “victimized” “students” (plural).  As the University knows, I was only charged with a Title IX violation by a single student – and that charge fell completely apart despite the fact that Dr. Ross advised the student, also a partisan in the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) circle. Now Dr. Ross says there are multiple students who were “victimized.” This is scurrilous. I never “victimized” any student in over half a century at Point Park.

Make no mistake, I, a Jew and an Israeli, am the only victim here. I am the only one who was purged from the campus, subjected to serious charges, banned from the classroom, severed from email and subjected to a frightening investigation.

For over a decade, the BDS movement has bullied and silenced Jews, Israelis and Zionists at American colleges and universities.  But in 2018, Point Park became the first school in the United States where BDS partisans charged a professor with a Title IX sexual harassment violation.

A Title IX sexual charge is the nuclear weapon against a faculty member. Even a tenured full professor can lose his or her job through Title IX.  Equally bad, a mere charge can lead to ostracism, shunning, isolation and wild lies on the web as has happened to me. In 2019, a Dartmouth fulltime professor was named peripherally in a Title IX suit.  He was not thrown off campus and out of his classes as I was; but, he became a pariah and outcast on his campus, and he killed himself.  It is very hard to come to work every day with this undeserved stigma and scrutiny.

The administration’s initial support of the flimsy and legally baseless claim and the brutal way they treated me is a central reason for my lawsuit. Another is the administration’s extreme tolerance for the insidious anti-inclusive, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic ideology of BDS. With administrative support, this hate-driven ideology – directed exclusively at the Jewish state of Israel and at supporters of Israel such as myself – has ill-served our Point Park community and the Pittsburgh community at large.  It is worth noting that the BDS movement has met with different reactions from other university administrations. For example, Michael Schill, President of the University of Oregon, publicly recognized that BDS is divisive to the social community and inconsistent with the school’s values about inclusion. And at the University of Illinois, Chancellor Robert Jones stated that BDS is not compatible with university policies on academic freedom.

Identified by many organizations and nations as being anti-Semitic, the BDS-affiliated Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) for which Dr. Ross is a lead advocate, produced a zealous manual that garnered praise from white supremacist and overt anti-Semite, David Duke. Since the BDS movement singles out the state of Israel for demonization and delegitimization, it is particularly misleading for Dr. Ross to claim in his statement to The Globe that he stands “in solidarity with all struggles for equity and liberation.”  One might ask Dr. Ross what he and the BDS ideology that he stands for have done for women subjected to Sharia law or for the LGBTQ individuals who are persecuted in Gaza and who often seek and find asylum in Israel?  One might also ask Dr. Ross about his activity as a board member for Friends of Sabeel, North America (FOSNA) – an organization that the Anti-Defamation League listed in 2010 as among the world’s ten “most influential and active anti-Israel groups,” and whose founder, Naim Ateek, not only claims Jesus as the first Palestinian martyr but also figuratively accuses Israelis of “crucifying” Palestinian children.

Identifying himself as a Christian whose approach to Israel-Palestine is through the lens of what he feels “God is calling us to do,” Dr. Ross clearly doesn’t work for Israelis, Jews, or Zionists.  In fact, Zionists and Jews who identify as Zionists are targeted for ostracism, silencing and elimination.  Transmitting the BDS ideology in his classroom, Dr. Ross indoctrinates students in a one-sided, hate-inspired view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Dr. Ross proclaims in his response to the article in The Globe that his commitment to “ensuring that students have access to education in an environment free of traumatizing harassment,” I wonder to whom he is referring? A commitment to transparency and truth might serve the world, our students and our community better than words that hide exclusion and hate.

Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to respond.

Channa Newman, Ph.D.