Several student leaders on campus have signed a letter addressed to University President Thomas LeBlanc to ask him to take steps to fight anti-Semitism at GW.
Leaders of the Student Association, GW for Israel, the Jewish Student Association, GW College Republicans and GW College Democrats signed the letter, released Wednesday, that asks LeBlanc to take three “action items” to prevent anti-Semitic incidents from occurring at the University. Signers said in the letter that anti-Semitism is able to persist on campus in various forms that could be eradicated if officials implement the three items.
“While we are all united in expressing our gratitude for your consistent condemnation of these repeated instances of anti-Semitism, we are equally unified in our determination to produce positive, meaningful actions as a result,” the letter states.
Jack Gross, the director of political affairs for GW for Israel, said at the forum hosted Tuesday that the letter calls on officials to create an official definition of anti-Semitism, to host a panel with experts on anti-Semitism and to form a “presidential commission” consisting of “campus leaders, faculty and administration” to investigate anti-Semitism on campus.
“We felt that we have an obligation to call upon the school to actually do something about this,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about this one instance. It’s about what’s happening here at GW, it’s about what’s happening around the country, it’s about what’s happening everywhere.”
He said GW for Israel members published the letter to call on administrators and student leaders to take concrete steps to combat anti-Semitism on campus.
“We know that the only way to do something properly is with bipartisan support and support from every single student organization on campus,” he said. “Like I said, this does not just apply to Jewish students, this applies to everyone – supporters of the state of Israel and supporters of the community.”
John Olds, the chairman of College Republicans, said he signed onto the letter as a student leader and not on behalf of his organization. He added in an email that the organization plans to work with different student groups to address incidents of anti-Semitism on campus.
“We look forward to being a part of the broader conversations on anti-Semitism and I look forward to being an active participant in the actionable reforms that the SA is seeking to pass in the coming weeks,” he said.
SA Sen. Louie Kahn, CCAS-U and GW College Democrats’ campaigns director, said his group will sign onto anything that aims to combat anti-Semitism. He said he hopes the letter will encourage LeBlanc to listen to students’ concerns about anti-Semitism and take action to solve the issue.
“We can be holding these forums, I appreciate all the administrators who showed up tonight,” Kahn said. “But I think that students should also be given the forum to question President LeBlanc directly and how he’s combating anti-Semitism.”
SA President SJ Matthews said she signed the letter during the meeting because she agrees “with everything in it.”
Tali Edid, a co-president of the Jewish Student Association, said the letter contains “reasonable demands that should’ve been instituted since day one” because “too much hate has been spewed, incidents gone unaddressed and calls have continued to fall on deaf ears.”
“We need accountability, and the JSA is ready to work with our community partners – and most importantly, the co-signers of the letter – to make sure the University hears, responds and protects us,” she said.
Edid added that student leaders have a “responsibility” to do “more grassroots work” in the face of incidents of hate to reach out beyond members of the affected community. She said it was “particularly disheartening” that the forum hosted Tuesday was “filled with a Jewish-majority crowd,” adding that allies are necessary in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Hate affects all community members, and when one student is attacked, as should all others feel,” she said. “We need to find a way to get the majority to care genuinely about the minorities on campus.”