Professor encourages Point Park students to boycott Israel
Higher educationUniversity does not support a boycott

Professor encourages Point Park students to boycott Israel

New club on campus says it is not antisemitic, but is 'opposed to Zionism'

Point Park University’s Academic Hall (Photo by J. James via Wikimedia)
Point Park University’s Academic Hall (Photo by J. James via Wikimedia)

Point Park University has not experienced the same level of anti-Israel activity as have some larger universities, but a Point Park professor has urged students to “get involved” in the “Palestine/Israel conflict” by boycotting “corporations that support Israel,” according to an article published in the school’s student newspaper, The Globe, on April 17.

The Globe reported that Robert Ross, a professor of social justice studies and community engagement, delivered a lecture upon returning from “occupied Palestine” and “encouraged attending students to stand up against Israel’s attacks on Palestine by staying educated, boycotting, contacting their elected officials and protesting.”

Corporations students were encouraged to boycott included Starbucks, McDonald’s and Sabra hummus, according to The Globe.

Ross is a vocal pro-Palestinian advocate. He was referenced in a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Channa Newman, a Jewish professor at Point Park, who alleged he was using his position at the university to promote “highly anti-Zionist views and activities” and to “foster the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.” Newman claimed that Ross and others sought to have her removed from her position at Point Park through the filing of a Title IX complaint because she did not acquiesce to their one-sided presentation of the conflict. Ross denied those allegations in a 2020 email to the Chronicle. The case was settled in 2022.

Ross has authored several articles urging boycotts of Israel, including an academic boycott.

Point Park officials take a different view.

“Point Park University and its leadership does not support a boycott movement against Israel,” Lou Corsaro, a spokesman for the university, said in an email to the Chronicle.

“Our students are not a monolith,” Corsaro added. “They have strong opinions about this conflict and a number of social, cultural, and world issues. Our responsibility is to ensure that all our students, no matter their beliefs, feel safe and heard on our campus. That said, the university has commended our students and the entire campus community for their admirable conduct and civility throughout the conflict. We are proud of the safe, inclusive environment that has long existed on the Point Park campus.”

Point Park enrolls approximately 3300 full- and part-time students. It is unclear how many are Jewish. A list of student organizations and clubs on the university’s website does not include any focused on specifically Jewish interests.

In February, a new Point Park club, Point Park Students for Change, “represented by Robert Ross,” was launched, according to The Globe. It held its first meeting “in solidarity with Palestine.”

“We want to make it explicitly clear that in our solidarity for Palestine, we are not anti-Semitic. We are opposed to Zionism and the loss of all innocent lives,” PPSC said in a statement to The Globe.

On Feb. 7 ,The Globe’s editorial staff changed the logo on the paper’s cover “to add red and black, two additional colors of the Palestinian flag,” they wrote. The editorial called for the U.S. to cease its support of “Israel in their attacks against Hamas,” and bemoaned the loss of life in Gaza. The editorial did not mention Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel or the murders and rapes of Israeli civilians.

Richard Keitel, a professor and director of Theatre Arts at Point Park who is Jewish, said that while he believes “everyone is entitled to their opinion,” he has been disturbed by the articles in The Globe. The coverage, he said, has been “very slanted.”

“I don’t want to see innocent Palestinians get murdered,” he said, “but I put the blame on Hamas.”

Keitel is well aware of the rising tide of antisemitism in the U.S. Before Oct. 7, he applied to take a sabbatical next fall so he could visit Israel, then direct a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” when he returns.

“Then Oct. 7 happened and antisemitism skyrocketed,” Keitel said. Staging a play about Anne Frank “couldn’t be more timely.”

Point Park does not offer courses that teach the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “but the University would always welcome people to our campus interested in educating our community,” Corsaro said.

Julie Paris, regional director of StandWithUs Mid-Atlantic, said in an email that her organization “regularly advises administrators about best practices for ensuring that all members of the campus community — including Jewish students and other stakeholders — are afforded a safe learning environment with equal access to and use of all campus programs and activities.”

While the First Amendment protects the right to express “even highly offensive views and beliefs,” Paris said, “it does not protect conduct that harasses, discriminates, threatens, or causes physical harm. To the extent that anti-Israel (or any other) activity on campus crosses these lines, universities have an obligation to enforce applicable policies and laws swiftly and even-handedly to address that conduct and prevent the creation of a hostile antisemitic campus environment.”

StandWithUs, Paris said, encourages administrators “to remind faculty of the purpose and proper use of university resources and assets, such as email listservs and departmental websites, to ensure that individual views are not mistaken for the official position of the institution, and to reiterate the fundamental values of open dialogue and debate, honest inquiry and investigation, and factual accuracy in the presentation of classroom information so that our universities remain bastions of true education rather than ideological indoctrination. We look forward to continuing to work with administrations across the country, including at Point Park, toward these ends.”

The editor of The Globe did not respond to the Chronicle’s request for an interview prior to press time. PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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