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Jewish staffer quits Clark University, citing ‘hate-filled’ backlash to private advocacy

Advocacy groups say schools must do more to protect staff from antisemitism

A Jewish administrator has a new home at a Catholic college after she says a “hate-filled” backlash drove her from job at Clark University

Mary Jane Rein recently resigned as executive director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Massachusetts college, citing “unruly and hate-filled” backlash to her Jewish advocacy work and a lack of support from Clark’s administrators.

Now, she works at Assumption College, a Catholic institution, where she said she feels more welcome.

A Jewish advocacy organization predicted more colleges will lose valued scholars like Rein unless they do more to stop antisemitism.

“Universities who treat their Jewish faculty in this manner will lose them one by one, along with their incredible future academic contributions,” Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, told The College Fix in an emailed statement.

In Rein’s case, students targeted her during a lecture that she helped to organize in her private capacity with the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, according to an op-ed Rein wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The event, which took place March 13 at Worcester State University, featured Israeli soldier Shahar Peled who was one of the first responders to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

However, Rein said “hecklers repeatedly interrupted him, stood to make statements, rang cell phones and pulled a fire alarm, causing the auditorium to be evacuated, interrupting the event for 20 minutes or so.”

Three Clark students also aimed to publicly discredit her, shouting at her after the event and demanding she resign, she wrote. Rein said she felt disheartened by the “specific attack on me” from “students I know well.”

Then, “in an email the next day, a senior administrator admonished me against using my university affiliation in connection with non-Clark events, saying it was ‘highly problematic.’ I hadn’t mentioned my title, either in my brief remarks or in the event announcement,” Rein said.

Rein (pictured) said she still has strong relationships with her former coworkers and Clark alumni. However, she decided to resign because “there is no joy in working on behalf of” students when they “try to silence me in public rather than engage with me civilly.”

“I can no longer function effectively at an academic institution that thinks shouting a speaker down is tolerable but introducing a speaker with whose views people disagree isn’t,” she said in the op-ed.

Rein said she recently accepted a position at Assumption University’s new Center for Civic Friendship. As the founding director, she will help create a program that is “rooted in respect, honest inquiry and the free exchange of ideas in the context of civic friendship,” Rein said.

“To my surprise as both a scholar and a Jew, I feel a warmer welcome and more commonality of purpose at a Catholic institution than at Clark, a secular one,” she wrote at the Wall Street Journal.

The Fix contacted the Center for Civic Friendship twice via email, seeking comment from Rein, but did not receive a response.

University says it can’t police students off campus

Angela Bazydlo, media relations manager at Clark, forwarded university President David Fithian’s response to Rein’s departure to The Fix when contacted for comment.

“The University takes very seriously any allegations of misconduct, but our ability to hold students accountable for behavior off campus is, in fact, limited,” Fithian said in the statement.

Although “objectionable,” the students’ behavior did not violate federal, state, or local laws, he said.

Fithian also said the university did not discourage Rein from “from engaging in issues or expressing her views freely,” and “the guidance she received was meant … to clarify, going forward, if she was speaking in her capacity as executive director of the Strassler Center.”

Thomas Kuhne, history professor and director of the Strassler Center, told The Fix in an email the tone of political engagement amongst students is not Clark University’s responsibility.

“No institution of higher ed or academic program can fully control what students (or faculty) do, especially when away from campus, nor should they control it as long as those doings remain lawful,” Kuhne said.

‘Administrators did nothing’ when voices’ silenced, Jewish advocates say

But Jewish advocacy group leaders told The Fix universities should be doing more to support Jewish faculty and staff.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, said silencing Jewish voices is not new on college campuses.

“They have been silencing Israeli and Jewish voices for years, as administrators did nothing,” Menken told The Fix in an email. “To silence voices you don’t like is against everything that academia claims to stand for: the pursuit of knowledge.”

Rothstein of StandWithUs told The Fix Rein’s departure is “devastating yet understandable,” and she was pleased to hear about Rein’s position.

“I am grateful that Dr. Rein’s journey has taken her to a group of peers who will support her identity, her continued growth, and her scholarship,” Rothstein said.

MORE: Pro-Palestinian students walk out on Seinfeld commencement speech at Duke

IMAGE: Clark University/Mary Jane Rein

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Emily Rosecrans -- Clemson University