Hillel Campus Climate Initiative
There is a rich history of Jewish life at Goucher College, dating back more than 100 years. The college features a high percentage of Jewish students, ranging from 13 to 17 percent, and is ranked as a top 20 private institution in the nation for Jewish students by student percentage.
Over the years, periodic reports of antisemitic speech and actions, mostly in interpersonal incidents (although some were public) usually related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have occurred. These incidents led to Jewish students reporting feeling uncomfortable. Most cases were addressed on a case-by-case basis after the incident, leading to a siloed response to antisemitism at Goucher.
Because a collaborative and proactive approach is necessary, Goucher Hillel and Goucher College joined the second cohort of Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) in 2021 to review and address campus climate concerns for Jewish students.
Reviewing and Addressing Concerns
Some administrators and faculty took part in online educational sessions in the academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23. This experience offers college personnel, in partnership with their local Hillel professional(s), the opportunity to engage with CCI staff in:
- gathering, assessing, and utilizing data to better understand the current climate for Jewish students in their campus community and to inform strategic next steps;
- training and empowering college administration and staff to better understand the needs of Jewish students, the diversity of the Jewish community, and the challenges of campus antisemitism; and creating and adopting best practice policies, procedures, and programs to address antisemitism and foster a positive climate for all students on campus.
During the 2021-22 academic year, a working group coordinated a series of assessments with Hillel International and its consulting partners. Faculty, staff, and students provided feedback through both surveys and focus groups. Goucher furnished Hillel International’s CCI team with institutional reports relating to Jewish life, relevant policies, and the process of reporting antisemitism. This CCI team analyzed the provided data and reported back to Goucher with strategic recommendations in October 2022.
- Include Jewish students in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
- Provide Jewish identity and antisemitism training.
- Provide content on Jewish identities in multicultural programming.
- Create public, campus-wide programming on both Jewish culture and antisemitism.
- Examine issues with academics, curricula, and faculty.
- Further explore the survey response that indicated faculty and classroom activities were less inclusive of Jewish identities than campus activities or programs and clubs or student organizations.
- Update college policies to explicitly account for protection against antisemitism.
- Broaden the religious observation policy:
- Include a reasonable process for alerting faculty to student absences for religious observation(s).
- Include a policy or process that discourages scheduling major college events (including student assignments and exams) on key religious holidays and Shabbat.
- Invest in campus dialogue. Work to facilitate constructive dialogue across differences, including creating spaces for critical, constructive discourse and learning about Israel/Palestine.
- Strengthen incident response, including:
- Providing education for the campus community after a bias incident, focused on students accused of bias incidents and the campus community’s response.
- Providing immediate feedback to the campus community in situations involving antisemitic speech.
Goucher took several key steps toward implementing recommendations since the delivery of the report, including the following:
- Expanded campus policies to explicitly enumerate protection against antisemitism.
- Chaplain Maeba Jonas and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies Isabel Moreno-Lopez designed a new procedure for students to request support for religious observances for Shabbat and High Holidays that require work restrictions. That procedure is being finalized over the summer months so it can be shared with the campus population at the start of the fall semester.
- Policies changed college-wide to enable greater oversight to avoid conflicts between major events and religious holidays. Some major events, including Commencement, were moved this year to avoid conflicts.
- AVP for DEI & Title IX Juan Hernandez met with Jewish students and Hillel staff to clarify procedures for reporting bias, courses of action for redress, and opportunities for further education.
- Rabbi Josh Snyder and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies Isabel Moreno-Lopez attended CCI’s first conference for campus professionals at UNC Chapel Hill and brought back ideas about speakers and methods of engaging in productive campus dialogue around Israel and Palestine.
- Offices represented in the working group collaborated with the President’s Office and brought in speaker, award-winning author, and culinary historian Michael Twitty for a successful public event in November 2022 that built connections between Black, Jewish, and LGBTQIA communities on campus.
- Faculty training in May 2023 with Yavilah McCoy of Dimensions Consulting titled Deepening Equity at the Intersection of Racism & Antisemitism on Campus.
Several other programs are in formation as of June 2023 for the coming school year, including:
- plans for upcoming speakers, including Kenneth Stern, author of The Conflict Over the Conflict;
- further cross-campus training on antisemitism and Jewish identity;
- a planned student fellowship program to develop skills for dialogue across differences; and
- inclusion of newly hired faculty and staff, including Professor of Judaic Studies Max Greenberg and the new vice president for equity and inclusive excellence, into the process moving forward.