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Anti-Semitism and a Classroom 'Jew Count' at University of Toronto's Social Work Faculty

posted June 23, 2011

 Editor's note: This article below relates to a disturbing incident of anti-Semitism that appears to have been promoted by both students and a professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work . In a classroom discussion  students stated unease about being around 'rich Jews' at a proposed visit to a geriatric facility in Toronto. When this occured pofessor Rupaleem Bhuyan,  encouraged  rather than discouraged the sentiment by noting the high number of Jewish faculty members in her own department; she subsequently permitted students to conduct a university 'Jew count'. When confronted about her racist views, Bhuyan justified her behaviour by noting that 'racialized' students who come from underprivileged backgrounds don't want to be around rich old Jews. She complained as well that donor plaques at the university were all from rich Jews. Professor Lightman  wrote a recent article about  this incident for The Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.

According  to the Friends of Simon Weisenthal Centre following  this incident Professor Bhuyan had her contract renewed by the university.

 

ANTISEMITISM AND A CLASSROOM JEW COUNT AT UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO'S  SOCIAL WORK FACULTY

 

by a blogger in EyeCrazy Blogspot  

Picture the following: A discussion in a post-graduate university class on the topic of Jews turns ugly. The professor is uncritical when one student says he doesn’t want to be around Jews. Another student complains about “rich Jews,” implying their excessive power.  In a subsequent class, the same professor, as if to validate those points, says half her department faculty are Jews and with her approbation, students conduct a ‘Jew count’. 

While this sounds like an episode in Germany leading up to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws, it occurred more recently and much closer to home, at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work. Now, more details are emerging under the exceptional circumstance of two U of T professors publicly criticizing a colleague for facilitating classroom anti-Semitism and the university administration’s inadequate response.

The controversy began when some visible minority students in a Social Work Master’s program at the University of Toronto expressed discomfort about being around “rich Jews,” in Professor Rupaleem Bhuyan’s class, regarding a proposed outing in 2009 to the Baycrest Centre, an internationally renowned Jewish geriatric and research facility.  They were undoubtedly confident of a sympathetic ear from her. The previous year, Bhuyan denounced Israel as a satellite of the United States, unworthy of distinction as a separate country.

The few Jewish students in Bhuyan’s Master's Program class were intimidated into silence for much of the discussion by a classroom culture slanted against them. Finally, one young woman spoke up, protesting her grandparents had come to Canada with virtually nothing and she was proud her family could now afford the fees for them to reside at Baycrest.

That must have rung an alarm bell for Professor Bhuyan, because startlingly, she then admonished her students not to divulge what transpired in class to outsiders.

But her classroom was not Las Vegas and what happened there did not stay there.  Some outraged Jewish students approached Professor Paula David, who in turn consulted senior professors Ernie Lightman and Adrienne Chambon.

“Students are in a vulnerable position and dread officially attaching their name to complaints against a professor in a program like Social Work” said Lightman. “Aside from determining grades, they fear one bad word from a professor to a social agency can eliminate their employment prospects.”

In the face of such circumstances, Lightman assumed the voice of the Jewish students who endured the vitriol in Bhuyan’s class.  He, with Chambon spoke to Faye Mishna, the Dean of Social Work about the incidents.  A letter Lightman wrote to U of T President David Naylor about the matter also became public.

To read more, click here: http://eyecrazy.blogspot.com/2011/06/anti-semitism-and-classroom-jew-count.html

 

 

 
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