Oberlin suspends professor who blamed Israel for 9/11

A college professor known for "repugnant" rants on social media, including one blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks, won't be holding court in a classroom when school begins this fall.

Officials at Oberlin College announced last week that Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, is suspended with pay from the prestigious Ohio liberal arts college while the administration reviews her Facebook posts.

Karega came under fire in February after posting comments on the social media site blaming Israel and Jews for everything from 9/11 to the creation of ISIS. At the time, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov appeared to defend Karega's freedom of speech in a letter to the college community.

But on Wednesday, Scott Wargo, Oberlin's director of media relations, released a statement on behalf of the college, saying the school had been “considering carefully the grave issues surrounding the anti-Semitic postings on social media by Oberlin faculty member Dr. Joy Karega."

"In March, in consultation with President Marvin Krislov, the Trustees of Oberlin College asked the administration and faculty to 'challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings,'" the statement said.

"The College initiated its faculty governance process to review Dr. Karega’s professional fitness in light of these postings," it continued. "The faculty governance process that began thereafter is ongoing, and the Oberlin administration will continue to respect this process as it plays out.  Until that process is complete, Dr. Karega has been placed on paid leave and will not teach at Oberlin."

In a posting Friday on her personal Facebook account, Karega thanked her supporters and attached a NewsOne.com article quoting her representative, identified as Chui Karega, who said the school is "being used as a personal tool of religious extremism by a small number of people.”

"Oberlin administrative officials have stated that Dr. Karega has performed exceptionally as an educator on the faculty at Oberlin. Her record of teaching has been unblemished," Chui Karega told the website.

"Nevertheless, Oberlin’'s administration, pandering to the dictates of a handful of vocal and wealthy religious zealots, has set out to push Dr. Karega out of her faculty position at Oberlin," he said, adding that the professor was placed on administrative leave with "no justification."

The NewsOne.com article, however, includes a photograph of the wrong college.

In February, the news site, The Tower, published controversial posts made by Karega in early 2015. The posts claimed Israel secretly planned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and that Mossad, Israel’s national security agency, formed Islamic State.

At the time, Krislov responded in a letter to the school community by writing, "I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust."

"As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Regardless of the reason for spreading these materials, they cause pain for many people — members of our community and beyond,” he wrote.

Krislov didn’t mention Karega’s name in the letter, but said backing the right to freedom of speech was parallel to the college’s mission.

“Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community. The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are not just principles to which we turn to face these challenges, but also the very practices that ensure we can develop meaningful responses to prejudice," he said.

Days later, however, Clyde McGregor, the board chairman, wrote in a statement on behalf of the college’s board of trustees that “these grave issues must be considered expeditiously.”