Rutgers University President Robert Barchi on Friday, December 8 issued a letter to all faculty members in order to explain the disciplinary action being taken against Professor Michael Chikindas for his alleged anti-Semitic social media posts.
In October, Michael Chikindas, a veteran professor in the Food Science Department was called out by the campus community for allegedly posting anti-Israel ad anti-Jewish rants on his Facebook page. His defense was that his social media account was hacked and he was unable to say with confidence that all the offensive posts were really generated by him.
President Barchi’s letter never responded to the “hacking” defense and instead outlined the action being taken against the professor. Essentially, Professor Chikindas is being removed from his leadership position in the Center for Digestive Health, and no Rutgers student will be required to take a course that he teaches.
Below is the entire text of the letter.
“A fundamental expectation of a university is to provide an environment in which students can learn, discover their passions, and do research free from fears of discrimination, harassment, or disruption.
So, too, should our faculty and staff expect a professional environment that is welcoming and free from discrimination.
Earlier this fall, Michael Chikindas, a Rutgers–New Brunswick tenured professor, was found to have posted extensive bigoted, discriminatory, and anti-Semitic material on social media. This material perpetuated toxic stereotypes and was deeply upsetting to Jewish students, faculty, and staff across our community. The fears and concerns they have expressed to us and many university leaders are both justified and understandable.
Immediately upon learning of the professor’s conduct, the university began an investigation of his actions in the context of our own policies and relevant law. While aspects of the disciplinary process remain confidential, we are taking the following actions today as a result of that investigation:
- Professor Chikindas will be removed from teaching required courses. No Rutgers student will be required to take a course that he teaches.
- He has been removed from his leadership position as director of the Center for Digestive Health at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health. No Rutgers employee will be required to work in an administrative unit that he heads.
- He will be required to participate in a cultural sensitivity training program, and will be subject to ongoing monitoring if and when he returns to the classroom.
- Finally, Professor Chikindas has been notified that the university is seeking further disciplinary action through procedures required by Appendix H of the collective bargaining agreement with our faculty union.
This has been a sad and deeply troubling situation for our students and our staff, and for our faculty, who stand for much nobler values than those expressed by this particular professor. While the university is and should always be a place that challenges students to grapple with complex and even controversial ideas, this situation has threatened the trust between professors and students that is a prerequisite to learning.
It is our hope that we can navigate these difficult conversations together and that, having been tested by these challenges, we can emerge stronger and with renewed appreciation of our common bonds.
Robert Barchi, President
Deba Dutta, Chancellor