A firestorm of controversy has erupted on the normally quiet campus of Connecticut College in New London over philosophy professor Andrew Pessin’s (right) Facebook post that many are claiming was “racist” toward Palestinians. (Oh, pray tell, what “race” is Palestinian?) Apparently, none of these perpetually offended Muslim whiners are complaining about the anti-Arab Connecticut College ‘camel’ logo.
WNPR The professor, Andrew Pessin, said the entire event has been taken out of context and that the outcry is not about his alleged racism, but is a concerted effort to attack his reputation because of his pro-Israel point of view. (And not incidentally, because he is Jewish)
The Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Connecticut college, as well as the history department have issued statements to the college community condemning hate speech, and raising the issue of censorship on college campuses.
The “CCSRE would like to clearly state that we do not condone speech filled with bigotry and hate particularly when that speech uses dehumanizing language and incites or celebrates violence and brutality,” an email read.
Pessin posted a message on his Facebook wall last August wherein he referred to the “situation in Gaza” as “a rabid pit bull chained in a cage” that, when set free, “comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat.” At that time, Israel was fighting Hamas in Gaza in a seven-week battle that left thousands dead or injured, most of them from Gaza.
Pessin’s post went relatively unnoticed until a (Muslim) student saw it in February and reached out to Pessin, saying his post offended her. He told WNPR that he apologized, and removed the post. But Pessin said that students on campus and at least one other faculty member launched a campaign attacking his comments and calling on the college to denounce his views.
Below is a screen shot of Pessin’s Facebook post.
A letter from college President Katherine Bergeron noted that the controversy “raised important questions about the nature of free speech,” but it did not address the nature of Pessin’s post.
Two weeks after he apologized and removed the post, The College Voice printed three letters attacking Pessin’s views. They pointed to the “dehumanizing language” used, and how it could be a precursor for violence or oppression against Palestinians. In the comments under Pessin’s initial Facebook post, a person named Nicole commented that the “dogs” need to be put down, and Pessin wrote “I agree” underneath.
Pessin has taken a ‘medical’ leave of absence and will not be teaching for the rest of this semester.