Joy Karega went too far in a February series of anti-Israel Facebook posts, the Oberlin College board of trustees said Tuesday, voting to fire her from her job as associate professor of rhetoric and composition.
“In the face of Dr. Karega’s repeated refusal to acknowledge and remedy her misconduct, her continued presence undermines the mission and values of Oberlin’s academic community,” college spokesman Scott Wargo said in a written statement. “Thus, any sanction short of dismissal is insufficient and the board of trustees is compelled to take this most serious action.”
The college has been investigating Karega since March. In August, it placed her on paid leave and barred her from teaching pending a faculty investigation.
The termination was in response to a series of conspiracy theories she posted that were captured in screenshots by The Tower, a pro-Israel website.
In one, Karega said the Mossad, Israel’s version of the CIA, “orchestrated” the January 2015 massacre by two Muslim brothers at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris that frequently ridiculed Muslims. Karega also posted that it was “obvious” Israel was responsible for the October downing of a Malayasian airliner over Ukraine.
She also posted that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was not an Islamic terrorist group, but a CIA and Mossad front. “There’s been too much information out here for the general public not to know this,” Karega wrote.
While insisting the college was fulfilling its “ongoing commitment to academic freedom,” the statement questioned Karega’s professional fitness and integrity. It said she attacked colleagues who questioned “inconsistencies” in the connection between her postings and scholarship. “And she continues to blame Oberlin and its faculty committees for undertaking a shared governance review process,” Wargo said.
Karega, who began teaching at the college in 2014, on Facebook said she plans litigation and blasted the firing.
“I’ve been dealing with the persecution, incompetent leadership, and discrimination from Oberlin College since March,” she said. “No surprise here.”
Karega criticized faculty members who opposed her or were silent, saying the college applied “arbitrary and biased standards.” She thanked faculty and students who supported her.
“Oberlin College thinks it exists in a bubble, but it doesn’t,” Karega said. “I will aggressively challenge what this college has done to me and defend my rights.”
Karega in a written statement Wednesday said the Tower “grossly misrepresented” her comments and that since the story she had been inundated with hundreds of racist and sexist messages as well as threats.
“The Oberlin community doesn’t deserve this racist, arbitrary attack which has damaged the name and reputation of Oberlin,” she said. “I will challenge the college’s decision and assault on my substantive rights through all the avenues I have available to me.”
Karega’s posts were widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Critics said her comments conjured up historic lies about all-powerful Jews secretly manipulating world events. Nonetheless, her supporters on Facebook decried the firing.
“You were one of the best professors to grace the racist campus of Oberlin College,” said Jasmine Adams, a 2015 Oberlin College graduate. “You were too strong, radical, black, and beautiful for that whack institution.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.