Oberlin College has a huge embarrassment on its hands, an assistant professor named Joy Karenga who, as Yair Rosenberg puts it in this Tablet piece, “moonlights as an unhinged anti-Semite on social media.” Once her hateful writings came to light, Oberlin president Marvin Krislov (who deserves commendation for standing up to BLM protesters and their demands) meekly defended Karenga’s right to academic freedom, but, Rosenberg points out, “did not exercise his own to condemn her statements.” Oberlin’s board of trustees at least decried her postings as “anti-Semitic and abhorrent.”
What I really like about Rosenberg’s article is the way he looks for and finds the bigger issue.
Karenga, we learn, teaches a course in “Writing for Social Justice.” In the course, students supposedly “develop, negotiate, and revise their own writing strategies and ethics as they write on social justice issues relevant to their interests.” Sounds to me like training for leftist agitators. I wonder what would happen if a student proclaimed that his social justice issue was getting inner-city students out of lousy public schools?
Anyway, Rosenberg observes that Oberlin hired “an unrepentant bigot” to teach students about justice and writes, “This astounding fact suggests that the entire hiring process for social justice-related fields at Oberlin is fundamentally broken and easily gamed.” Quite right.
College officials ought to ask some probing questions about how a “scholar” like Karenga was hired.
I would suggest that they also ask whether there ought to be any “social justice writing” courses at Oberlin. They are bound to attract zealots (although probably not so reprehensible as Karenga) and it’s doubtful that they actually help students learn to write well.