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Rutgers isolates but does not fire professor over antisemitic social media posts

(JTA) — Rutgers University took steps to ensure that students and faculty do not have to work with a professor it investigated for antisemetic and racist social media posts, but did not fire him.

In a letter sent to faculty Friday morning, University President Robert Barchi and Chancellor Debasish Dutta announced that professor Michael Chikindas, who is a tenured, will be removed from teaching required courses so that students will not have to study with him.

Chikindas will also be ousted as director of the Center for Digestive Health at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health, to allow employees to avoid working for him, Barchi and Dutta wrote, and he will be required to go through a cultural sensitivity program.

The university is seeking further disciplinary action under its collective bargaining agreement with the faculty union, and if and when Chikindas returns to the classroom, he will be monitored, according to the letter.

Barchi and Dutta wrote that Chikindas had been informed of the university’s decisions. They condemned the material he posted, saying it “perpetuated toxic stereotypes,” and voiced solidarity with “Jewish students, faculty and staff” who found it “deeply upsetting.”

“The fears and concerns they have expressed to us and many university leaders are both justified and understandable,” the letter read.

Chikindas was found earlier this fall to have posted to social media caricatures of hook-nosed Jews; canards that the Jews control Hollywood, the Federal Reserve and the government, and accusations that Israel is committing genocide and is a “terrorist country.” He blamed the Armenian genocide on Jewish Turks and republished claims that American Jews and Israel were responsible for the 9/11 attacks, among other antisemetic claims.

In an interview with the Algemeiner at the time, Chikindas rejected accusations of antisemitism, saying he was previously married to a Jewish woman and is one-quarter Jewish. He also said he does not believe any of his postings violate Facebook policies.

Some 3,200 students signed a petition calling for Chikindas’ suspension from the university, the student newspaper The Daily Targum reported.

“This has been a sad and deeply troubling situation for our students and our staff, and for our faculty, who stand for much nobler values than those expressed by this particular professor. While the university is and should always be a place that challenges students to grapple with complex and even controversial ideas, this situation has threatened the trust between professors and students that is a prerequisite to learning,” the administrators’ letter said.

Rutgers, the biggest state university in New Jersey, has among the largest Jewish student populations of any U.S. university.

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