Penn, Swarthmore, Rutgers Make Algemeiner’s Best and Worst College Lists


screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-09-09-amParents of high school seniors: Pay attention.

The Algemeiner released its survey of the 40 worst college campuses for Jewish students in the U.S. and Canada — as well as the 15 best — in response to a rise in anti-Semitism on campuses.

Topping the worst list are Columbia University, Vassar College, University of Toronto, McGill University and University of Chicago.

Leading as the best schools are Yeshiva University, Touro College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University and City University of New York, Baruch College.

The lists included some Philadelphia-area schools, too.

The University of Pennsylvania made No. 6 on the best list, while Swarthmore College and Rutgers University placed No. 36 and 28, respectively, on the worst list.

This is the first survey of its kind produced by The Algemeiner, though Editor-in-Chief Dovid Efune noted that the publication’s journalists research extensively on this subject matter 24/7.

“We have at The Algemeiner a campus bureau — a group of journalists that are dedicated to covering this issue all day, every day,” he said. “I’m not aware of any other publication on the planet that’s watching and following this issue so closely.”

The lists took four months of extensive research to compile.

Efune said they had many factors to evaluate, including anti-Semitic incidents on campus; the number of anti-Israel student groups and how active those groups are, including the number of people who show up to their events, their membership and how often they host events; Jewish student populations and percentages; the number of Jewish or pro-Israel groups and how active they are; the availability of Jewish resources; the success (or lack thereof) of Israel boycott efforts; and public positions of faculty members with respect to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

“We tried to think about the full scope of Jewish life on campus and all the positives and negatives — all the possible aspects that a student on campus might experience,” Efune said.

They then formatted those categories into a point system to create their ranking.

“On top of that, we conducted dozens of interviews with experts and campus activists to confirm that their findings and their experiences matched what we found,” he added. “Ultimately, this piece is our judgment.”

The survey cited two recent studies by Brandeis University and Trinity College, which found, respectively, that 54 percent and 75 percent of Jewish students witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism on campus.

“These are astronomical numbers,” he said. “It’s really quite unparalleled, and we saw it as hugely important to shine a spotlight on this issue, to draw attention to the issue. I think this, now a week in, really had that effect.”

Swarthmore was ranked No. 36 due to multiple incidents of swastika graffiti over a three-month period — just prior to the U.S. presidential election — leaving students “rattled.”

Rutgers — despite its tight-knit Jewish community — came in No. 28, as it had several anti-Semitic incidents reported, with students claiming the administration does not take complaints of swastika graffiti seriously enough.

The Students for Justice in Palestine chapter regularly hosts anti-Israel events, according to The Algemeiner. The university also houses several anti-Israel faculty members and professors.

Penn, with a strong Jewish presence, has one of the country’s leading full-time Chabad centers and an active Hillel. The school is “largely devoid,” The Algemeiner said, of public displays of anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism and provides many opportunities for Israel engagement.

Naturally, the worst list has garnered criticism, as has the project as a whole; The Forward’s Laura Adkins called lists like these “deceptively powerful.” Many have criticized the worst list for including schools with large Jewish populations but Efune said that there’s a lot of positives to focus on, too.

“The worst is in relation to the best, and the best is in relation to the worst,” he explained. “If you look at the best list as well, you understand what a model campus should look like. It includes an active and vibrant Jewish life, but also the lack of hostility toward Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

Whereas those on the worst list can also have large Jewish communities, “there is also simultaneously a vibrant and hostile attitude toward Jewish and pro-Israel students in many segments of the campus.”

Efune put the idea in a broader perspective: Imagine this were a list of the worst countries to live in the world as a Jewish person, and France was ranked No. 3.

“I don’t think people would be so offended by that, even though France is a country where you have the third biggest Jewish population in the world, outside of Israel and the United States,” he said. “You have hundreds of kosher restaurants and synagogues and Jewish community centers — incredible Jewish life there. But you cannot deny the challenge that the community faces.”

Efune hopes this list draws attention to these issues on college campuses.

“Our hope is that the campuses that fit that description will make a greater effort to reach out to the community, to do more together with the community, to understand their concerns, to understand their fears, and to address them in a real and substantive and serious way,” he said.


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