Yale hate study centre closure 'suspicious'

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

One of the world's leading universities has decided to shut down a specialist centre on antisemitism after just five years.

Yale University in Connecticut said its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) was being closed because it had failed to produce enough scholarship to "warrant its continuance".

But the decision to end what was billed as North America's first "comprehensive, interdisciplinary" university research centre on antisemitism has provoked a strong reaction.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said it was "surprised and saddened" by the move and called on Yale to reconsider its "unfortunate decision".

YIISA's closure would leave "a very regrettable void", he said.

‘The closure is even harder to understand given the advances in the field’

Winston Pickett, the former director of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, who delivered a paper at the YIISA conference last summer, also hoped for a change of heart on Yale's part.

"The closure of YIISA, if it is carried out, would constitute a serious setback to the academic study of antisemitism - a setback all the more poignant and incomprehensible given the latest advances in the field," he said.

"To shut down a programme when the need for understanding the phenomenon continues to grow in quantum leaps is both retrograde and draws suspicion."

In an article for the online Jewish Ideas Daily, Alex Joffe suggested that last year's YIISA conference - which included sessions on radical Islam and the delegitimisation of Israel - had been too politically sensitive.

But Donald Green, director of Yale's Institution for Social and Policy Studies, said that YIISA "did not attract large numbers of students" or produce enough scholarly work in "top-tier" journals.

"YIISA suffered the same fate as other initially promising programmes that were eventually terminated at ISPS because they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction," he said.

YIISA director Charles Small - who gained his doctorate at Oxford - said that he could not comment at
this stage.

Last updated: 1:16pm, June 16 2011