Assigning Extra Credit for Attending Pro-Hamas Event

Tessa Farmer

by James A. Bacon

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion staff at the University of Virginia downplayed concerns about Tessa Farmer, an anthropology professor who last fall offered extra credit to students to attend a Students for Justice in Palestine-organized teach-in, reports The Washington Examiner this morning.

The purpose of the event was to show solidarity with Palestinians resisting Israeli “occupation” and demand that the United States withdraw its support for Israel. 

“Internal emails show DEI staffers were apparently unperturbed by this professor’s promotion of a Students for Justice in Palestine event despite the group’s radical rhetoric,” the newspaper quoted Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of federal-spending watchdog OpenTheBooks, as saying. OpenTheBooks worked with the Examiner on the Freedom of Information Act requests that recovered the emails. The group also collaborated with the Jefferson Council to publish recent findings that UVA spends $20 million on salary and benefits for DEI staff at UVA.

Just a few days after the wave of Hamas terror attacks on Israel, Farmer, an anthropology professor whose academic research has focused on water resources in Egypt, sent an email to students October 12 saying…

A few of you wanted more details about extra credit opportunities, so here are some updates and an event that a student asked me to pass along. … Whenever I see an applicable event, I’ll send out a notice. If you know of an event that relates to class conversations/theme, please let me know and I’ll pass it along. For the extra credit, you would attend an event … and then write a reflection of 250-words tying the event to course readings.

According to the Examiner, a parent, Stacey Blumberg, blasted off an email to UVA President Jim Ryan the same day.

I am writing to bring to your attention a deeply concerning matter involving Global Studies Professor Tessa Farmer. It has come to my attention that she is offering extra credit to students who attend tonight’s event sponsored by SJP, an organization that released a statement on October 8th celebrating the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel.

Farmer’s decision was “not only morally reprehensible but also goes against the fundamental principles of inclusivity, respect, and academic integrity that our institution should stand for,” Blumberg wrote.  “I implore you to thoroughly investigate this matter and take appropriate steps to ensure that Professor Farmer’s conduct is addressed immediately.”

OpenTheBooks and the Examiner used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal emails triggered by Blumberg’s communication. Those involved included Brie Gertler, vice provost for academic affairs; Christa Acompora, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Keisha John, associate dean of DEI; and Rachel Spraker, the DEI division’s assistant vice president for equity and inclusive excellence. (The Jefferson Council recently profiled Spraker here.)

Reports the Examiner:

Spraker didn’t seem convinced it was clear Farmer sought to reward students to attend the SJP rally, where protesters accused Israel of genocide for retaliating against Hamas. …

“Let me know is there is something specific we can help with,” Spraker wrote to John in the afternoon of Oct. 12. “In reading the information it does not appear the professor is offering extra credit for attending the event. The event was a separate announcement. Is that correct?”

John agreed.

“That’s my read, but not the read of the person that sent the email,” John replied to Spraker minutes later.

On the same email thread, Spraker looped in top DEI division leader Kevin G. McDonald. …

Spraker wanted to know why lawyers had to be handling the Farmer matter.

“I am not sure why counsel would need to be involved but sharing the information,” Spraker wrote to McDonald, Springston, and DEI division chief of staff Meghan Faulkner. … Springston replied soon after, asserting that the counsel’s office is often pulled in to advise on First Amendment-related matters.

UVA spokesman Brian Coy disputed the interpretation that Spraker and John were downplaying Farmer’s extra credit announcement.

“This inquiry was taken seriously by the individuals you reference and by others, as evidenced by the fact that the concern was elevated to the leadership of the DEI office,” Coy said. “The fuller context of the exchange also makes clear that Ms. Spraker’s comment was an expression of unfamiliarity with the reason why such an email would be shared with the counsel’s office, and another more senior team member replied that it should be, and ultimately it was.”

Farmer’s extra credit policy “did not constitute an endorsement of this event or any other, and that, accordingly, such an approach was consistent with her academic freedom to conduct her course,” Coy said.

The Examiner article contains significant additional background and detail. Read the whole thing.

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TJ Wahoo
TJ Wahoo
1 month ago

DEI needs to be defunded immediately. This a disgrace to thousands of graduates who are too afraid to speak out. Stop the insanity.