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President Paula Johnson on Anti-semitism

A letter to alumna from President Paula Johnson, dated Oct 7th,  came as quite a shock to most of us.  It read, in part, as follows:

The Wellesley News recently published an editorial that endorsed the Mapping Project. 

Wellesley College values the existence of a free press both at Wellesley and in the United States, and supports individuals in our community feeling free to peacefully express their views on political issues. The Wellesley News is a student newspaper—an organization that is editorially independent from Wellesley College—and the views of its editorial board do not reflect the views of the College. 

While it is not my practice to comment on the newspaper’s editorials, I do feel the need to make it clear that Wellesley College rejects the Mapping Project for promoting antisemitism. The project encourages the targeting of approximately 500 Jewish and other organizations in Massachusetts, including educational institutions like Wellesley, MIT, and local public school systems, and lists the names and addresses of individuals who are affiliated with these organizations. Its stated goal is “to reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them. Every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.”

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Since then, President Johnson and campus Rabbi Bodian  held a zoom call for Jewish Alumnae during which they spelled out this issue in more detail and explained  the college’s approach to confront the situation. On one hand, extra attention is focusing on assuring that Jewish students feel safe, while on the other hand efforts are underway to prevents a similar recurrence:  such as consideration of assigning a faculty advisor to the Wellesley News and adding a course offering about the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

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On October 30th, President Johnson gave the keynote talk at an Anti-Defamation League New England conference about confronting antisemitism on college campuses. She received a standing ovation.  

The video from opening remarks and opening plenary can be seen by clicking here:  https://youtu.be/vVVjj2N3Pfs

You can find President Johnson’s remarks by going to the time setting of  32:07.

In a New York Times op-ed on November 2nd, Mark Oppenheimer pointed to President Johnson’s leadership as an example of how colleges can address issues of antisemitism: “College campuses are merely reflections of the national mood. The Anti-Defamation League says there was a 167 percent increase in antisemitic assaults from 2020 to 2021. But given that context, what might address the problem at schools? Leadership, for one thing—like the kind modeled by Wellesley’s president, Paula Johnson, who condemned the Mapping Project as promoting antisemitism.”