Student protesters demand professor's resignation
Ashwin Adhikari holds a picket sign for the student protest against Professor Eisenstein's allegedly racist comments in his classroom and on his Facebook page.
Anti-Muslim comments made by a PUC professor on his public Facebook page and during his class lectures have led to campus-wide outrage and student protests.
Energetic chants such as "No more Eisenstein, Eisenstein must go!" and "They say get back, we say fight back!" echoed throughout the courtyard between the Gyte and SUL buildings on Nov. 9 and 10. Students held signs and handed out transcripts of Eisenstein's Facebook comments while expressing their opinions as others came and went between classes. Approximately 50 to 70 students took part in the protest.
Associate Professor of Political Science, Maurice Moshe Eisenstein posted comments attached with a link to a YouTube video on his Facebook page on Nov. 6, where he asked for justice for the killings of black Christians in Nigeria while lashing out towards Muslims. The video link was found by another PUC professor, which then started a heated debate between Eisenstein and PUC students via Facebook. On one of Facebook comments,Eisenstein wrote that "Muslims are barbarians and that they are nothing more to me than dogs." He further wrote that Muslims are "out to kill him."Eisenstein has taught at PUC since 1993 and received tenure in 2000.
PUC students Wala Issa, Jessica Tabor and alumni Chris Ramirez started the protests by organizing with other students in response to the anti-Muslim comments and alleged religious harassment from Eisenstein. During the exchange of comments on Facebook, Eisenstein called Issa a "Jew hater" after she posted a separate link in defense of Muslims and the Islamic religion. Issa said her intentions were to show that anyone can take an article and misinterpret it.
"He believes that we are targeting him as an orthodox Jew, [but] this has nothing to do with that. We are just offended about things that he said, which were calling Muslims terrorists and saying that the prophet Muhammad was an idiot," said Issa.
Eisenstein said the protesters are expressing their First Amendment rights and speaking their minds. He said he did not know it was a Muslim holiday when he made those comments in a class, and that he has nothing against the nation of Islam. He said his intent was to report on the 150 dead black Christian men, women and children, who were slaughtered.
"I want somebody to say that's wrong. So far, I have been the only one who has said that. Someone has to condemn the people who did this. It's my right to post that, [and] it is my right to speak out. That's my right to freedom of speech," said Eisenstein.
In a public statement, Wes Lukoshus, assistant vice chancellor for advancement, said, "PUC, by its nature as a public university, both welcomes and encourages the exchange of thoughtful and diverse views and opinions; however it does not condone expressions that are considered offensive, intolerant or disrespectful."
"Certainly, recent unpleasant comments exchanged between Associate Professor of Political Science Maurice Eisenstein and others have been communicated on the Professor's personal Facebook page. In no way do these comments reflect the university's position and commitment to tolerance and respect with regard to the right of free expression by all individuals," Lukoshus said.
Not the first time
Aside from the comments made on Facebook, Issa has previously filed two personal complaints to PUC officials against Eisenstein. The first complaint was filed on Aug. 31, to History and Political Science Department Head Richard Rupp, Dean of Liberal Arts and Social Science Ronald Corthell and Linda Knox, associate director of Affirmative Action at PUC. The second was filed with Corthell on Sept. 21.
The first incident involving Issa and Eisenstein occurred on Aug. 30, the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. Issa said Eisenstein made comments during a classroom lecture where he allegedly stated "Muslims are corrupting the world and the only thing Muslims are good for is their food."
Representatives of PUC's Social Justice Club and the Muslim Student Association both said they plan to file separate complaints in the days to come.
During a recent interview with The Chronicle, Eisenstein was asked whether or not he recalled stating any derogatory comments regarding Muslims during class lectures. He responded by stating those allegations were "factually not true." However, an audio recording allegedly from a spring 2011 class lecture of his, which has been posted anonymously on YouTube, provides a different story.
Various media outlets and radio stations, including NBC Chicago, have provided coverage of the demonstrations, but protesters claim the media has spun the story to make it look like Eisenstein is being picked on solely because of his faith.
"Since NBC and Lakeshore Public Television missed the whole reason why we are doing this, our next step is to send the message correctly, getting more people involved and hopefully justice will be served. We plan on doing this as long as we can until we see change," Issa said.
Fawwaz Alshammari, president of the MSA and electrical engineering technology senior, said he was contacted by a student who was mad after Eisenstein spoke about the prophet Muhammad and Islam during a class lecture.
Alshammari said he and the MSA joined the protests after they saw the comments made by Eisenstein on Facebook and said he believes Eisenstein should be fired over his remarks. He said that students came to the protest and told him Eisenstein has not only insulted Muslims, but Hispanics, blacks and other minorities as well.
Alshammari responded to the comments Eisenstein posted on Facebook, where he said; "The Muslim Student Association is anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic organization" and "Islam and Arabs are out to embrace and love the Jews. What a Joke. They only want to kill me."
"It's a nonsense comment. There are a lot of Jews living in the Muslim world and we have no problem with other religions. We live peacefully with them," Alshammari said.
Sociology Professor Alan Spector attended the protest on Nov. 10 and gave his opinion of Eisenstein's comments.
"Professors have a right to their own opinion, but the question is whether or not it creates a situation in the classroom where students feel like they're not going to be judged fairly or graded fairly," Spector said.
Tabor, who described Eisenstein's comments as "hateful," said, "The university has policies on student academic honesty, yet it appears that faculty members are not held to the same standards. Clearly, Eisenstein believes his university protected "bully pulpit" gives him the freedom to promote his bigotry."
Protesters said they plan to continue demonstrations until either Eisenstein resigns or action of some form is taken by Purdue officials. Protesters are calling for the resignation of Eisenstein, as they claim an apology will not be enough.
Issa and Tabor have contacted student groups from other universities, as well as civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition. At the time of publication, they were still waiting for a response from Jackson.
*Asst. News Editor Dante Vidal Silguero contributed to this story.
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