Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adrien Broner Arrested On Groping Charges

Adrien Broner, once heralded as boxing next big thing but never living up to the moniker, has been arrested after a woman accused him of groping her at an Atlanta mall.

Responding to the charge, the ever-classy Broner wrote on social media: "Just cause I voted for trump don't mean I'm going around grabbing pussies."

Yeah, I'm voting that he did it. Not just because of Broner's prior brushes with the law (though thus far he's escaped having any of his cases go to trial), and not just because he's a notorious asshole (though even in boxing he stands out), and not just because he voted for Trump (of course he did; also, moths to the flame much?). But the sort of person who'd respond to a sexual misconduct allegation with a flip "Just cause I voted for trump don't mean I'm going around grabbing pussies" is exactly the sort of person whom I totally believe would go around "grabbing pussies."

Thankfully, unlike late-stage Floyd Mayweather, who boxing fans like myself had to pay attention to even as he was racking up domestic violence cases of his own because he was the best fighter in the world, Adrien Broner is basically irrelevant at the top echelons of boxing now. So if this ends up torpedoing his next fight (a scheduled scrap with Omar Figueroa Jr.), we won't be missing much.

Nothing Went On At Fresno State

Last year, I blogged about an emergent controversy at Fresno State, where a faculty member alleged that a Middle East Studies search was canceled due to external "Zionist" pressure. Her claims quickly got substantial attention amongst the usual suspects -- JVP put together a condemnatory letter that quickly amassed 500 signatures -- but there was a crucial component to the case that remained missing.


Like, any of it.

The Fresno State administration consistently maintained that the search was suspended due to procedural problems; reporters who contacted the local Jewish community found nobody who had even heard of the search, let alone organized against it. Against that, those crying Zionist sabotage were left stringing together a few stray (and unattributed) comments allegedly made by some skeptical faculty members expressing concern.

So at the end of the day, was there any "there" there?

Fortunately, Northwestern University Law Professor Steve Lubet took the time to made and wade through a FOIA request for the relevant records that could answer that question. And it turns out that the University's denials were completely, absolutely, and 100% justified. The search was canceled because the finalists were all social scientists, but the position was going to be housed in a humanities department which didn't want to add faculty from outside its discipline. It was that mismatch which caused the search to be delayed a year (presumably so the parameters of the position could be realigned with the areas of specialization of the most interested candidates). Not a single document revealed any contact, let alone "pressure", from Zionist or Israel-advocacy organizations -- leading the President of the Faculty Senate to flatly declare (in an internal document) that the original complaining faculty member who made the allegations was simply "lying".

One hopes that puts this matter to bed. But it is fair to question how this "controversy" exploded in the way that it did. I wrote at the time:
Abba Eban once famously quipped that "If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions." So too, it seems, that if JVP circulates a letter saying Fresno State was devoured by a hellmouth and Israel had summoned it, it would amass 500 signatures within the week.
Lubet uses this to coin the term "Occam's BDS razor": the simplest explanation, anytime anything on campus doesn't go precisely the way pro-Palestinian advocates would like, is the interference of nefarious pro-Israel lobbying. We can see how that mentality shook out at Fresno both "vertically" and "horizontally". "Vertically", a few offhand remarks that were critical of the search proceedings got elevated to cases of "harassment". And "horizontally", these few remarks were roped together to form the locus of an imagined conspiracy of intimidation against the entire search. The ease at which these jumps are made is itself illustrative of antisemitism in its structural dimension -- even the tiniest shreds of Jewish public or private discourse immediately metastasize into dark threats of domineering power. Such moves, I have to think, wouldn't fly (or wouldn't fly as easily) were they not so easily slotted into the grooves of antisemitic discourse.
Lubet concludes similarly: the fact that the allegation of Jewish interference was taken as gospel with virtually no evidence whatsoever, coupled with the (perhaps more alarming, though less surprising) fact that none of the bodies which leveled the accusation at Fresno State have shown any interest in even reviewing the documentation showing that the claim was groundless, is properly thought of as a manifestation of antisemitic conspiracy theorizing.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Democracy Remains the Solution to Hillel's Biggest Problems

Hillel International endorsed Kenneth Marcus for the head Civil Rights position at the Department of Education -- mostly because Marcus is a firm opponent of BDS and campus antisemitism more broadly.

The problem is that (controversy over BDS aside) Kenneth Marcus also is viewed as weak on sexual assault, favoring a rollback of Obama-era regulations designed to get colleges to clamp down on sexual violence.

This has led to serious controversy within Hillel. Hillel International head Eric Fingerhut refused to rescind his endorsement, but did agree that the organization should "consider" altering its policies regarding endorsements and the need for consultation with Hillel constituent members:
In an email sent to campus Hillel directors Friday, Hillel President and CEO Eric Fingerhut acknowledged that the Hillel staff had raised questions about the Marcus endorsement. He said that Hillel International’s board would consider new procedures by which the organization’s leadership would in the future consult with Hillel staff and students before taking public positions on political issues. He also said that he had meant to endorse Marcus’s work on anti-Semitism only, not his position on the campus sexual assault issue.
At the risk of tooting my own horn, you know what would be a great "procedure" facilitating consultation with Jewish students before Hillel adopts a public policy position? Democracy! If Hillel was a democratic organization, this misstep would have been far less likely to have occurred, and the position Hillel did take would have been far more likely to be in line with the actual preferences of Hillel students.

The thing is, democracies are responsive to their actual constituents in a way that Hillel is not. Given Hillel's institutional setup, it's utterly unsurprising that Fingerhut made his decision based on an issue of high-importance to his donor base while being utterly unaware of a countervailing issue of equal if not greater importance to Hillel's actual constituency. Simply put, Fingerhut is accountable to the former but not the latter. So he's going to be well aware of what matters to the former while being blissfully ignorant about the concerns of the latter. And the result is that he'll blunder into errors like this over and over again.

And one more thing: Maybe it's the case that Hillel students actually do care more about Marcus' work incorporating Jews under DOE regulatory protection than they do his conservative views on sexual violence prevention. If that's the case, then maybe a Democratic Hillel would have also given him an endorsement. But one suspects it would've been done in a more qualified and politically sensitive way. More importantly, in that circumstance the endorsement would carry democratic legitimacy that is lacking when decisions are made by the equivalent of an unelected autocrat. Democratic governance is good because it yields more responsive decision-making, yes, but also because it is simply legitimate in a way that Hillel, right now, cannot claim to be.