The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Faculty Council has a history of issuing resolutions in support of a safe and inclusive campus and specific communities. Since 2013, it has passed at least eight such resolutions. These include, for example, resolutions in support of transgender individuals; people of color; Black individuals; and Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islanders.
But on Jan. 19, 2024, the faculty council declined to support a resolution condemning unchallenged antisemitic statements made at a UNC-sponsored program that celebrated the Hamas invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 as a “beautiful day.”
On that October day, several thousand Hamas terrorists broke a cease fire, murdered approximately 1,200 people, raped and sexually assaulted women and girls, and took more than 200 people hostage, including babies, children, the injured, and older adults. Not since the Holocaust were more Jews killed in a single day. We know what happened on Oct. 7 in part because the Hamas terrorists themselves documented and posted videos online of their actions and their celebrations of them.
The faculty council resolution had three provisions, all of which should have been non-controversial. First, the resolution strongly condemned the antisemitic statements made at the event. Second, the resolution recognized that freedom of speech and expression are foundational principles of UNC, alongside creating a safe atmosphere free of violence, harassment, and discrimination. And third, the resolution strongly condemned speech that incites or celebrates violence against any people based on religious beliefs, national origin, or ancestry.
Opposition to the resolution took several forms. Some said the resolution required them to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or suppress free speech, even though it expressly supported free speech and did not take a position on that conflict. Others suggested that condemning one instance of antisemitism on campus would require the council to condemn all such instances. Indeed, the council, representing the best of faculty leadership at UNC, should do so, as such resolve would show moral clarity and consistency with its support of other groups. Others were concerned that the resolution focused only on Jews. While celebration of violence against any group should, of course, be condemned, the event in question celebrated only violence against Jews. And, the resolution’s third provision—by its terms—included all people.
At the meeting, one faculty member who is not a council member was afforded substantial speaking time in opposition to the resolution while others who supported it were not given time to speak. After the meeting, that same faculty member stated that the “beautiful day” comment was not antisemitic and offered another shocking reason for her opposition to the resolution that is completely at odds with established facts regarding the events of Oct. 7: that perhaps Israelis themselves perpetrated most of the murders.
The council’s decision exhibited a blatant double standard evoking the squirming and equivocation by Ivy League presidents during their recent testimony before Congress. The council had no problem, for example, criticizing the university’s settlement over a Confederate monument, on grounds it supported “white supremacist activity” and violated the university’s mission and obligations to the state. Failing to condemn a campus event that glorified atrocities committed against Jews because of their national origin reinforces a growing public perception that academics have a political or ideological agenda and pay lip service to free speech only when it suits their purposes.
This wasn’t UNC’s first antisemitic event. A similar 2019 event forced the university to enter into a resolution with the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and agree to combat antisemitism. The “beautiful day” event resulted in yet another OCR complaint. When the faculty council had a chance to commit to ending a pattern of antisemitism at UNC, it tabled the issue, demonstrating selective solidarity and a double standard.
Jacob Sagi, Professor of Finance and Wood Center in Real Estate Distinguished Scholar, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Jessica Smith, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government, School of Government
Adam O. Goldstein, Goodwin Distinguished Professor, UNC Family Medicine
Ronit Freeman, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Physical Sciences
Abigail Panter, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience
Mark McNeilly, Professor of the Practice of Marketing, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Ron Strauss, Adams Distinguished Professor, Adams School of Dentistry
Deborah R. Gerhardt, Reef C. Ivey II Excellence Term Professor of Law, UNC School of Law