published : 2023-11-11

Scandal-Plagued Oberlin College Under Investigation for Antisemitism and Support of Hamas

U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights probes allegations of antisemitism at Oberlin College

A group of diverse students engaging in a lively discussion at Oberlin College's campus. (Taken with Nikon D850)

Oberlin College, a renowned liberal arts institution in Ohio, is once again at the center of a major antisemitism scandal. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the college for its alleged failure to address the harassment of Jewish students.

The investigation comes as a result of a formal complaint filed in 2019 by Dr. Melissa Landa, an alumna of Oberlin College. In her complaint, Landa detailed instances of antisemitic incidents and expressed concern about the college's handling of the situation.

One of the key figures in the controversy is Professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, who previously served as the Islamic Republic of Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. In a 2021 report by Fox News Digital, it was revealed that Mahallati had called for the eradication of the Jewish state during his tenure as ambassador.

According to the complaint, Mahallati's teachings at Oberlin included spreading the belief that Israel is an apartheid, settler-colonial regime and that Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, represents the will of the Palestinian people.

Dr. Melissa Landa, alumna of Oberlin College, passionately speaking at a rally against antisemitism. (Taken with Canon EOS R5)

Dr. Landa, along with other alumni, discovered these offensive viewpoints after reading Mahallati's students' blogs, which were later deleted by the professor. Landa argues that this kind of antisemitic indoctrination has no place in an educational institution and demands that Oberlin terminate Mahallati's employment.

The recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights adds to Oberlin College's growing list of setbacks. In a separate lawsuit, the college paid a bakery over $36 million after accusing it of racism. These incidents raise questions about the college's commitment to addressing discrimination and protecting its students.

Critics have called on Oberlin College to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a step towards combating the ongoing harassment of Jewish students. However, the college's president, Carmen Twillie Ambar, has reportedly refused to meet with the families of Iranian dissidents allegedly connected to Mahallati's actions.

The federal investigation into Oberlin College's handling of antisemitism allegations comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Education has announced its intention to cut federal funding for colleges that fail to address antisemitism effectively. Oberlin College, which received over $5 million in federal grants in 2023, is now under scrutiny to take decisive action.

Students gathering in solidarity, holding placards that read 'No Place for Hate' and 'Protect Our Jewish Community'. (Taken with Sony Alpha A7 III)

While Oberlin College stresses its commitment to a safe campus and condemns antisemitism, critics argue that more needs to be done. Pro-Israel students face challenges in expressing their support for Israel, leading to a culture of intolerance on campus. Empowering all students to engage in constructive dialogue and respecting different perspectives is crucial for resolving these issues and creating a more inclusive environment.

As the investigation unfolds, the Oberlin College community awaits a resolution that will determine the institution's future approach to addressing antisemitism and protecting the rights of all its students.