Our TTN colleague, Prof. Steven Lubet of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, has just published “What the Heritage Foundation Gets Wrong about DEI and Anti-Semitism” in The Forward. He argues that a new study issued by this well-known right-wing think tank fails to adequately substantiate its claim that university offices for “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” are bastions of antisemitism arrayed against Jewish students and faculty. Here is the gist:
A recent Heritage Foundation report claims that university Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices are so suffused with antisemitism that they might even be responsible for increased campus violence against Jews. Although the study has received some favorable coverage, it was so poorly executed that it reveals nothing more than how easily data can be manipulated to score a political point.
There have been some reported incidents of DEI advocates displaying troubling callousness or even hostility toward the interests of Jewish students, but the Heritage Institute’s methodology doesn’t establish any widespread “encouragement” of antisemitism.
The researchers found plenty of tweets by DEI staffers that evinced a hostile obsession with Israel, which often overlaps with antisemitism.
These are disturbing sentiments, but the overall numbers are insignificant. Among the 2,933 DEI staff surveyed, there were only 741 accessible Twitter accounts, from which there had been 605 anti-Israel tweets, retweets and likes (compared to only 28 favorable).
Although the imbalance is striking, the report never says how many unique accounts generated the 605 problematic tweets. Was it one DEI staffer tweeting 600 times, 20 staffers tweeting 30 times apiece or 200 staffers tweeting three times each?
Given the unrelenting enmity toward Israel of certain progressive activists, it is highly likely that a handful of DEI staffers were responsible for a great majority of the invectives. If so, the most common number of hostile tweets per person is probably zero.
It is bizarre that the authors of the Heritage Report – a Harvard PhD and a doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas – withheld information so crucial to their hypothesis. Given the nature of their data collection, the Heritage Report authors could easily have provided the total number of supposedly anti-Israel tweeters, and specified the study’s time span, if that had been helpful to their case. The wobbly presentation of this study is indicative of the Heritage Foundation’smission to delegitimize university DEI programs as a whole, having published multiple reports and op-eds calling for reductions in staffing and greater control by state legislatures.
The AAF currently consists of over 120 liberal and progressive scholars, affiliated with The Third Narrative, who are dedicated to combating academic boycotts and blacklists, defending freedom of expression and promoting empathy and civility in the debate over Israelis and Palestinians. More information on the AAF can be found at: https://thirdnarrative.org/alliance-for-academic-freedom/.