Abraham Franchetti | President Jameson, don’t let the AAUP interfere with this campus.

Franchetti’s Facts | Union’s double standards between antisemitism and racism reveal their hypocrisy.

Photo credit: Flickr / Mike Ferguson / AAUP

By Abraham Franchetti

In an era where Americans from all walks of life have been shocked by the rampant antisemitism within organizations that claim to be non-discriminatory, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) stands as a unique beacon of hypocrisy. After interim President Jameson condemned antisemitic cartoons made by Penn lecturer Dwayne Booth, the AAUP has taken the extraordinary step of publishing a letter saying this condemnation “has endangered academic freedom.” They even promised an “investigation” by the national AAUP organization if Jameson takes any further action. To understand why one of the largest professorial labor unions in the country is targeting Penn for condemning antisemitism, we first must look back at their history. 

In 1900, Stanford University dismissed eugenicist Edward Alsworth Ross over his racism towards Chinese and Japanese railroad workers. Ross’s research focused on the idea that allowing Asian immigrants into the United States constituted white “race suicide.” After giving a speech in which he said “It would be better for us if we were to turn our guns upon every vessel bringing Japanese to our shores rather than to permit them to land,” Jane Stanford called for his resignation. Although Stanford didn’t fire Ross, this pressure led to his resignation, and several professors resigned in protest. Amongst these professors who resigned was Ross’s friend Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, who, in 1915, co-founded the AAUP. The controversy surrounding Ross’s resignation is cited as a primary motivator for their effort to protect professors’ rights to free speech. 

For more than 100 years, the AAUP has stuck to its strategy of selective outrage and carefully chosen who to defend. AAUP has continued to advocate for academic practices that harm Asian Americans. In an updated “Discrimination Statement,” published in January 2024, the AAUP argues that schools should seek alternative methods to achieve the same outcomes that the Supreme Court ruled constituted discrimination against Asian college applicants in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. How exactly does recommending discrimination alternatives fall under AAUP’s self-defined mission of “advancing academic freedom?”

For an organization whose foundation lies in protecting advocates of bigotry, eugenics, and violence against marginalized groups, it comes as little surprise that they have waded into Penn’s campus defending antisemites today. 

Dwayne Booth’s cartoons caused uproar for his use of the Holocaust as a backdrop to criticize Israel and imagery that repeats Nazi propaganda of blood libel. As a result, in a recent statement shared by Penn, President Jameson wrote: “I find them [Booth’s cartoons] reprehensible, with antisemitic symbols, and incongruent with our efforts to fight hate.” He continued by underscoring the University’s commitment to free speech, but added, “Not everything that can be said, should be said.” In his statement, Jameson goes to great lengths to balance a commitment to free speech while condemning Booth. 

In response to Jameson’s statement, AAUP announced that they believe it “endangered academic freedom,” an intellectually dishonest argument. Jameson’s statement, where he emphasizes responsible speech, is not damaging to free speech. This action is well within the bounds of appropriate conduct at a time when Jewish college students have experienced unprecedented fear and bigotry. Furthermore, the AAUP’s letter makes no attempt to argue why Jameson is wrong, conceding that Booth is an antisemite who endangers his own students. The AAUP should stay out of attempting to influence policy at Penn unless they are willing to do so with a clear vision and consistent moral framework. 

While the AAUP condemned Jameson for his statement regarding a professor’s antisemitism, they have stayed silent as Penn has taken disciplinary action against Amy Wax. Wax is a tenured law school professor with a history of controversy, including accusations of racism and xenophobia. Recently, Theodore Ruger, Dean of Penn Carey Law School, filed a complaint and requested a hearing on sanctioning Wax. A much more severe form of discipline than written or verbal condemnation. AAUP’s response? Silence. 

There is only one possible conclusion: AAUP believes that antisemitism exists in a separate class from other forms of bigotry, and remains acceptable. While the AAUP has gone to bat defending the right to be an antisemite at Penn, they have taken a back seat when it comes to the treatment of faculty, such as Wax, that espouse other forms of bigotry. The AAUP clearly applies vastly different standards to antisemitism than any other form of discrimination, and their leaders should be ashamed. 

This is the exact hypocrisy that bipartisan hearings in the House Education Committee revealed about university leaders last year. Former Penn President Liz Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay told Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that calling for “Jewish genocide” only constitutes harassment in certain “contexts.” Gay’s steadfast defense of free speech was undermined by the fact that Harvard ranks dead last in FIRE’s ranking of campus free speech. Both Magill and Gay stepped down from their positions shortly afterward following international outrage. Similarly, Booth defended his cartoons by telling The Daily Pennsylvanian that they could only be fully understood with accompanying columns by journalist Chris Hedges as context; columns which were notably missing when Booth uploaded his cartoons.  

The concepts of tenure and academic freedom were created to enable the world’s greatest minds to pursue groundbreaking and controversial research. The crude drawings of a lecturing cartoonist in the communication school are no grand contribution to American discourse. Booth’s CV includes having published no research during his 9 years at Penn, and his top selected work, 2020’s Nobody Left notches a prestigious #1,069,512 on Amazon’s Best Sellers ranking. This record makes it likely that the goal of these cartoons was to attract attention rather than provoke critical thought. At the end of the day, it is strange to me that the creator of ClownCrack.com teaches at the same institution that was once home to greats such as Jeremy Siegel, and currently hosts 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine winners, Professors Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó. 

Political cartooning is an inherently controversial and important profession that should be treated carefully, but Booth has already veered from dark satire to harming Penn students. Booth’s works perpetuate antisemitic tropes while providing no value to the University of Pennsylvania. 

Until the AAUP releases a full statement on which forms of bigotry they deem acceptable, they should sit this one out. President Jameson, do not allow these hypocrites to interfere with our school, and continue your work to defend Jewish students. 

Abraham Franchetti is a sophomore in Wharton studying Finance with a minor in Classical Studies from Port Washington, NY. Abraham is also the Fundraising Director for The Pennsylvania Post. His email is bramf@wharton.upenn.edu.

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