Professor Barry Kosmin, of Trinity College, presented “Anti-Semitism and Today’s Campus Environment: Methodological Challenges and Substantive Findings” at our recent, October 15th, faculty colloquium. Later that day, he presented a public lecture, entitled “La Trahison des Clercs: Accounting for the Persistence of Anti-Semitism and Judeophobia in the University and Among the Intelligentsia.”
Dr. Kosmin, director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, is a principal investigator of the American Religious Identification Survey series and is an internationally renowned expert in Jewish demography. He was the director of the CJF 1990 U.S. National Jewish Population Survey, the American Jewish Identity Surveys of 2001 and 2008, and the 1998 National Survey of South African Jews.
During his presentations at UConn, Dr. Kosmin discussed findings from various recent surveys that examined levels of anti-Semitism on today’s campuses. While rates of physical violence were low, incidents of “micro-aggression,” verbal abuse, exclusion from activities, and less obvious forms of discrimination, were widespread and of a low-level intensity. In a 2014 survey, 54% of students had experienced anti-Semitism in the previous six months. The majority of encounters were overwhelmingly personal, in other words, the events were on an individual level and not systemic. Kosmin commented that the motivating factors in such incidents were self-serving, pointing out that “people discriminate against others to advantage themselves.”
From the survey data, it was noted that both women and those who were members of a Jewish organization were more likely to experience anti-Semitism. It was not clear if women were targeted more frequently or if they were simply more likely to report an incident.
Student turnout for Professor Kosmin’s lectures was high with many of the students in this semester’s Anti-Semitism course, taught by Professor Dashefsky, attending. We welcome future visits from Dr. Kosmin and look forward to learning more from his research!
Please join us for our next colloquium, scheduled for Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 1:00 PM in Business 302 when Professor Emily Sigalow presents “Making Meditation Jewish: The Construction of a New Contemplative Jewish Practice.”