A message from the chancellor: Confronting antisemitism in our world

"As a Carolina community, we must do everything in our power to combat discrimination. I hope that each of you will join me in this endeavor."

The Old Well.
(Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

The recent observance of the High Holy Days by our Jewish community gave me an opportunity to reflect on the history of antisemitism both in our country and around the world. I know that on this issue, there are unique sensitivities and ways our speech and actions can enflame and enable hatred to reveal itself. Antisemitism is one of the oldest and most persistent of hatreds, manifesting itself around the world, our country, and even on our campus. At Carolina, we unequivocally reject and deplore antisemitism. It has no place on our campus.

For a long time, academics have discussed the relationship and differences between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. A few years ago, I sat around the table at Hillel with a large group of Jewish students who had an open and honest debate on this very issue. I came away from that conversation recognizing the complexities surrounding these discussions and the ways that Zionism is an integral part of many of our Jewish students’ identity. As an academic community, we have an obligation to support rigorous, informed debate, and this extends to the difficult and sensitive set of topics relating to the history and future of Israel and Palestine. I believe we must recognize the line between some expressions of anti-Zionism and actual antisemitism. I have heard from students and alumni who’ve felt unwelcome and marginalized by discourse crossing that line, and their experience is troubling to me.

One way to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for our Jewish students is an effort we have recently joined in partnership with North Carolina Hillel — Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative. Through the program, we will learn best practices for cultivating a positive campus climate where all students are comfortable expressing their identity and values. We are convening a diverse advisory committee to implement this initiative.

In addition, I want to understand better the concerns I’ve heard from many in our community who think the University has not been forthcoming enough in recognizing antisemitism and communicating our efforts to combat it. Toward that end, I have asked campus leaders to hold listening sessions this October and next spring intended to bring our community together to discuss concerns around all forms of discrimination and harassment, including but not limited to antisemitism. We have held listening sessions in the past and we want to continue to be available to those whose voices have not yet been heard. The dates and locations will be posted in The Well. In the meantime, I encourage any student who feels discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic background or religious identity to report it immediately to the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office.

As a Carolina community, we must do everything in our power to combat discrimination. I hope that each of you will join me in this endeavor.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz