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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College community reacts to Dartmouth’s ‘C’ grade on ADL’s antisemitism report card

Some community members expressed concerns with the rating’s methodology and failure to distinguish between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

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On April 11, the Anti-Defamation League published antisemitism report cards for 85 U.S. colleges, assigning each school a letter grade A through F based on the prevalence of antisemitism on their campuses. Dartmouth, along with 28 other schools, received a C, which stands for “corrections needed.”

Only two schools — Brandeis University and Elon University — received A ratings, indicating that they are “ahead of the pack” in addressing campus antisemitism, the report stated. Eighteen schools received a B, 24 received a D and 12 received an F, or “failing.” Dartmouth was the only Ivy League university to receive a grade higher than a D. 

The ADL is an anti-hate organization that works to stop the “defamation of Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” according to its website. 

The ADL reported that it considered administrative actions and policies, including whether antisemitism is addressed in universities’ codes of conduct, whether an advisory committee on antisemitism exists on campus and whether there is mandatory antisemitism education for students and staff. The ADL also considered the state of Jewish student life on campus, including the presence of Jewish student organizations and Kosher dining options. According to the ADL website, Dartmouth “contributed information” to the report card assessment process.

In its review of the College, the ADL wrote that “there have been a few antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on campus in the last year.” The review specifically cited the October 2023 arrest of “two undergraduate students”  — an apparent reference to Kevin Engel ’27 and Roan Wade ’25, who were arrested for criminal trespassing while protesting on campus, according to past reporting by The Dartmouth. The ADL wrote that the two students made several demands, “including the school’s divestment from Israel and the end of Dartmouth’s academic exchange with Israeli universities.”

“While the students had peacefully protested for several days, school officials said the situation escalated when the students threatened ‘physical action,’” the ADL stated.

The ADL also cited the February hunger strike as an example of campus antisemitism. According to past reporting by The Dartmouth, eight students participated in an 11-day hunger strike to demand that the College support a ceasefire motion and drop the charges against Engel and Wade, among other demands.

Engel wrote in an email statement that they believe their actions were not antisemitic.

“It is not antisemitic to advocate for Palestinian rights, an end to the genocide in Gaza or divestment of funding which supports that genocide, the current Apartheid state of Israel or the various human rights violations being perpetrated by the Israeli military,” Engel wrote.

Engel added that there is a distinction between Zionism and Judaism.

“Zionism is not inherent to the Jewish faith, and I am deeply saddened by the fact that Jews at Dartmouth do not have a place to practice their faith without being confronted with Zionism,” Engel wrote. “I am also deeply disturbed by the depiction of pro-Palestinian movements as being antisemitic — as this is not the case. These movements oppose Zionism, a much more violent movement which has its roots in 19th century Europe.”

Engel also responded to the ADL’s claim that they “threatened ‘physical action,’” explaining that both they and Wade were non-violent during their protest. 

The ADL’s website states that it believes “anti-Zionism is antisemitic” because it is “used to disenfranchise, demonize, disparage or punish all Jews and/or those who feel a connection to Israel.”

In an email statement, Chabad secretary and treasurer Ruby Benjamin ’26 also wrote that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are linked.

“Anti-Zionism at its core is the rejection of the Jewish right to self-determination, which sets a dangerous double standard,” she wrote. 

According to Benjamin, the phrase “from the river to the sea” — which has been chanted at pro-Palestinian rallies on campus — “is certainly antisemitic as it calls [for] the elimination of Israel, and with it, all of its Jewish inhabitants.”

“However, many people do not fully comprehend the enormity of that statement,” Benjamin wrote. “So do I think that everyone who chants ‘from the river to the sea’ is an antisemite? No.”

The ADL’s website does draw a distinction between opposition to the Israeli government’s policies and opposition to Zionism.

Jewish studies program chair Susannah Heschel criticized the ADL’s methodology and noted that “the criteria for the grade is never made clear.”

“Another issue for me with this report has to do with the complete absence of any attention in the entire report to classes, to scholarship, to teaching,” Heschel said.

She said “students from all over the world … of all religious faiths” sign up for Jewish studies classes at the College, and the department often maintains waitlists. She also pointed to the “national and even international attention” Dartmouth has received for its efforts to combat antisemitism.

“We’ve been reported in newspapers in Germany, there’s a TV show in Singapore that we were just on and Morning Joe said to use us as a model for the rest of the country, and we get a C for that?” Heschel said. “Something’s not right there. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Heschel added that she believes the ADL’s report cards are flawed due to their ambiguity. 

“When it comes to this survey, I would give [the ADL] a D, or maybe a D-minus, because of the absence of footnotes, the absence of clear description of the methodology and for the kinds of issues that are raised and those that are not raised,” she said. “This is not a good study at all.”

The ADL did not respond to multiple requests for comment about their methodology by the time of publication.

College spokeswoman Jana Barnello wrote in an email statement that the College has “no tolerance for antisemitism or hate of any kind.”

“We are proud of the work happening every day to support our Jewish students across Dartmouth including collaboration with Chabad, Hillel, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity and countless other campus partners,” Barnello wrote. “We are committed to sustaining a welcoming and inclusive environment for Jewish students and educating the community on the scourge of antisemitism.” 

In a joint email statement, Hillel president and vice president of religion Cara Marantz ’25 and Jonas Rosenthal ’25 wrote that they “feel seen, heard and safe on this campus.” 

“We are proud of the College’s ongoing efforts to address issues of antisemitism and Islamophobia,” they wrote. “The recent grade given by the ADL fails to take our reality into account.”

Benjamin wrote that she “[does] not think there is a big antisemitism problem at Dartmouth.” She added that the College’s “tight-knit campus community” — as well as its geographical isolation — “lends itself to promoting conversation about disagreements, rather than hatred.

Chabad president Mia Steinberg ’25, noted, however, that some “people feel nervous about expressing their identities or true opinions” due to “a lack of nuance” in discussions about the conflict in Gaza.

Multiple universities have been under investigation by the Department of Education for reports of discrimination — including antisemitism and Islamophobic rhetoric — on their campuses, in some cases since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7. Dartmouth is the only Ivy League university to have been excluded from the DOE investigations, according to Forbes.

Heschel said Dartmouth’s atmosphere has been less intense than at other schools. 

“I don’t see mobs of students blocking the entrance to classroom buildings at Dartmouth the way they did at [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology], for example,” Heschel said. 

That said, there have been antisemitic incidents at Dartmouth in previous years, including a swastika drawn on the Green in April 2023 and a menorah shot on the Green in December 2020. 

In the months following Oct. 7, Dartmouth has launched a number of initiatives to promote open dialogue — including two forums held in October 2023, in which faculty from the Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies programs jointly discussed the start of the conflict. The Tucker Center, in conjunction with the Division of Institutional Diversity and Equity, has also been hosting student panels, workshops and moderated discussions to address antisemitism and Islamophobia.