Employee Workshops Address Islamophobia and Antisemitism

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Faculty and staff discuss strategies to foster a healthy campus environment.

Naomi Greenspan and Amer F. Ahmed
Naomi Greenspan, of the Academic Engagement Network, and Amer F. Ahmed, co-founder of Equip Inclusive, led workshops at Dartmouth last week on antisemitism and Islamophobia, respectively. (Photos by Robert Gill and Katie Lenhart) 

Dartmouth hosted two workshops in Cook Auditorium last week aimed at equipping faculty and staff with tools to identify and address Islamophobia and antisemitism within the campus community.

During the March 26 workshop on Islamophobia, Amer F. Ahmed, an organizational strategist and co-founder of Equip Inclusive, addressed more than 100 faculty and staff members, covering a wide range of topics, including the fundamentals of Islam, its societal context in America, misconceptions about Islam, and the dynamics of Christian hegemony versus liberal secularism. 

Additionally, participants gained deeper insights into topics such as stereotyping, microaggressions, and the issue of ethnic, racial, and religious profiling. Some common problem behaviors, Ahmed said, include increased surveillance and suspicion of a person perceived to be Muslim, mocking language, and associating Muslims with terrorism.

Ahmed said that it takes work to address Islamophobia. “The lift of what people have to learn is quite significant—just to get people, even those who are well-intentioned, in the game of being allies and interrupters of behavior.”

Ahmed’s presentation didn’t solely focus on education; he also provided actionable strategies for enhancing safety and fostering inclusion within the campus community.

In response to a question about recommended reading and additional resources, Ahmed shared some books and included recommendations from Abdul Latif, Dartmouth’s Muslim chaplain, and the online resource Muslim Campus Life.

On March 28, Naomi Greenspan, of the Academic Engagement Network, held a workshop over two sessions, one on Jewish identity and antisemitism, and the other on creating a Jewish-inclusive campus environment.

Greenspan noted that one in four Jews in the United States don’t practice Judaism as a religion but still identify as Jewish based on their culture and/or familial history. That also holds true for about 40% of American Jews under 30. Many of the 80 participants in the morning session were surprised to learn that there are only about 15 million Jews in the world—about 0.2% of the global population.

Faculty and staff in the Islamophobia workshop
Faculty and staff members, shown here during the Islamophobia workshop, also held small-group discussions during the sessions. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Greenspan said many factors, including religion, ethnicity, and nationality, can inform Jewish identity, depending on the person.

“Like other forms of bias, antisemitism manifests in prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes. But when people think of antisemitism, they often think it’s a religiously based hatred, but we see, in this definition, that Jews can be attacked for other aspects of their Jewish identity,” Greenspan said. “They can be attacked because of their cultural, religious, national, or racial identity.”

Greenspan gave examples of both the wide variety and contradictions in antisemitic tropes.

“Jews, because of their supposed power, become the scapegoat for society’s ills, and because of this we see antisemitism increase when there’s political or economic instability,” she said.

The second half of her workshop, on creating a Jewish-inclusive campus environment, included small group discussions of case studies from incidents on other campuses, and presentation of a 10-point strategy, ranging from celebrating Jewish life, including antisemitism in anti-bias programs, and modeling dialogue in a campus community.

The workshops, part of Dartmouth Dialogues, were jointly presented by the Division of Institutional Diversity and Equity and the William Jewett Tucker Center. Their purpose was to cultivate a deeper understanding and increased support of Jewish and Muslim identities within the Dartmouth community.

After the morning session on antisemitism, one of the staff attendees, Kate Soule, director of Arts and Sciences Finance and Research Administration, said she was pleased the workshops were helping people think more deeply about such issues as bias and hatred.

“Trying to have both of these different workshops at the same time to help us to be able to have better conversations about this very fraught issue I think is really important for Dartmouth,” Soule said. 

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