Professors sue Wheelock College for 'anti-Semitism'

Two Jewish professors claim school made them miserable after they protested a lack of Jewish perspective on campus.

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Gil Ronen,

Students on campus (file)
Students on campus (file)
Flash 90

Two professors from Boston's Jewish Wheelock College have filed complaints with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the school, in the claim that they suffered anti-Semitic discrimination that damaged their reputation and careers.

The Boston Globe reported that Professors Eric Silverman and Gail Dines accused Wheelock President Jackie Jenkins-Scott and other administrators of having "made their work lives miserable" after the two spoke out about a lack of Jewish perspective on campus. They are seeking unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.

Silverman is a professor of American studies and psychology and human development who has taught at Wheelock since 2006. Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies and chairwoman of American studies at the college since 1986. Both have tenure.

Silverman’s complaint claims he was blocked from applying to several administrative positions and was accused of using racist language in the classroom – an accusation he denies.

Both professors, who are practicing Jews and who "explore" Judaism academically, said they felt slighted when they were not consulted about a performance about diversity, the Black-Jew Dialogues, that came to the campus.

Wheelock officials said the claims are “without merit.”

The Globe reported that the small liberal arts college, which specializes in social work, early childhood education and social justice, has been beset with problems of late. It is struggling financially, and many of its administrators have left it. Also this year, Wheelock’s interim vice president for academic affairs stepped down after she was found to have plagiarized a letter written by Harvard University President Drew Faust.

According to the EEOC complaints, the trouble began after Dines, Silverman, and four other professors wrote a letter in 2014 in which they claimed Jewish perspectives were absent on the campus.

Jenkins-Scott and several other administrators responded with “fury and retaliation,” eventually leveling false accusations of racism against Silverman, according to his complaint.

An external diversity consultant whom Wheelock hired then allegedly acted as an “enforcer” and persuaded the president to instigate an external investigation into Silverman's conduct and spread “hearsay and unsubstantiated random data” about him.

School officials last week in a prepared statement said: “Although Wheelock does not comment on the particulars of personnel disputes or litigation, it disagrees strongly with the allegations made in the actions recently filed against the college.”