Anthony Monaco and other university presidents share what they are doing to combat antisemitism on college campuses
As instances of antisemitism continue to rise across the United States, Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco joined a roundtable of university and college leaders in New York City on April 12 to share best practices in keeping college environments welcoming and respectful for Jewish students.
Hillel International, which organized the discussion as part of its University Presidents Summit on Campus Antisemitism, asked Monaco to recount Tufts’ robust efforts over the last several months to understand the extent of antisemitism on campus and create a plan for combating it.
Leaders from more than 40 colleges and universities attended the summit, which was also presented by the American Jewish Committee in collaboration with the American Council on Education.
“President Monaco has spoken out vigorously and repeatedly to condemn antisemitism at Tufts and in our world,” said Mark Rotenberg, vice president for university initiatives and legal affairs at Hillel International.
He noted that Tufts has joined Hillel’s Campus Climate Initiative, which provides colleges with tools to assess their climate, educate on antisemitism, and take meaningful steps to confront discrimination and bullying. “We applaud Tufts’ commitment to cultivate an environment for students that respects ethno-religious diversity and promotes dialogue across difference.”
Monaco was joined in the roundtable by Robert J. Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Jennifer J. Raab, president of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Monaco noted that although he, Jones, and Raab represent different types of academic institutions, they all shared strikingly similar concerns about antisemitism seeping into the campus climate, often when political speech crosses the line into hate speech.
“The issues remain the same, even if they manifest differently,” he said. “We all agreed that the absence of positive dialogue to resolve differences is a core problem.”
During the roundtable, Monaco detailed the steps Tufts has taken in the fight against antisemitism, beginning with creating an ad hoc committee and conducting more than 40 focus groups involving over 100 faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students from a diverse range of backgrounds and religious identities. In addition, Tufts surveyed its entire undergraduate student body.
It found that while most respondents said that Tufts is a good place for Jewish students, more than half of Jewish students said they had seen forms of antisemitism while at Tufts. Many faculty and staff suggested that the increasing political discourse on campuses about the Israel-Palestine conflict has exacerbated the problem.
Based on the findings, the Tufts committee suggested several ways the university could work to discourage antisemitism, beginning with making civil dialogue the core component of any solutions.
During the roundtable, Monaco shared these suggestions, which included everything from creating forums for listening and dialogue on campus and specifically incorporating antisemitism education into anti-bias training to increasing academic offerings with diverse perspectives on the Israel/Palestine issue.
“Colleges and universities must remain vigilant in our work to address antisemitism’s rise on campuses across the country and to foster a safe, healthy, and respectful environment for all our students,” Monaco said. “At Tufts, we have been vigorous in our response, and we were happy to share our approach with other leaders in higher education. Through opportunities such as this summit and our ongoing collaborations, we will continue to learn from each other as we seek to combat antisemitism on our campuses.”