Hatred in My Department
Monday night around 10pm, I got an email from a professor in my department that was sent to the department list serve. A very hate-filled email comparing Israelis to Nazis with horrible graphic pictures from the Holocaust and Gaza. One had a little girl's decapitated head in Gaza next to bodies of Jews killed by Nazis.
I was so upset that the professor sent this that I wanted to immediately respond. I called my friend Jennifer and asked her to talk me down. People often send heated things out on our department that lead to horrible disagreements. I have been warned recently that when I'm up for a job, people on the hiring committee will call any professor in the department that they know to ask about you. So I didn't want to get on anyone's bad side. But as an Israeli and the descendant of Holocaust survivors, I felt like I couldn't be silent.
My friend helped me come up with the idea to ask the department chair, who is on my committee, to say something so that I don't have to. I crafted her a well-thought out email explaining why I think what the professor said is over the line. And I didn't hear back.
I went into a trauma cycle and started binging on food and alcohol. I only had two drinks, but that's enough to potentially trigger a migraine for me. I fell asleep from a food and alcohol coma.
But, I woke up around 3am. I was wide awake with a bit of a headache and with all of the feelings. I had to teach on Tuesday. It was a long and disturbing night. I listened to my guided imagry CD and took homeopathic medicine.
The next day, I ran into the chair of the department. She told me that she had decided to not say anything because she thought it violated the professor's academic freedom to have her limit what could me said. This really hurt me because she's stepped in previously when a graduate student made rude comments to a professor and in another case when someone made racist comments to Chicano students. I felt as if my hurt didn't matter.
I was considering letting the whole thing go. I mean, I am graduating in 6 months, hopefully. I decided to write an email response and then just save it in my drafts. It felt better to get everything out and to spend the time carefully crafting out my thoughts and clarifying what my experience was in a thoughtful and sensitive way.
Then, I got an email from my chair justifying her decision that I could just get off the listserv if I wanted and that the list is meant for people to post whatever they want. I was so hurt and angry that I decided to send out my email response to the listserv.
At first there was no response, and that made me feel a little hurt. Then, I got emails from other Jewish graduate students in my department, thanking me for being brave enough to send the email. They felt the same way. I felt better for having said my peace and voicing what I need - to not have hostility in my workplace (and asking for what I need is something that I really struggle with).
The next day, another professor sent out an email to the listserv calling for an academic boycott of Israel. Now, this would include not allowing me to do what I had done for my MA research and not allowing me to apply for postdocs in Israel. The boycott call has been going around the world for years, so this was clearly posted, I and some of my friends believe, in direct response to my email. It was like a screw you to my request to be respected.
Now, I'm super upset. I can't focus. I have gotten several emails of support from fellow students, but the faculty are silent. Other than my advisor who asked me when I was okay about what happened; I told her no. I don't think that she's going to do anything about it. I took myself off the listserv, which means that I may not receive notice about conferences, jobs, and funding opportunities. But I'm not putting myself through all that.
My therapist says that I'm running, which is a pattern from me - that I shouldn't demonize the department and that I should learn to not distance myself from those who hurt me and take better care of myself when I'm feeling the trauma. Or something. I don't even know what I'm supposed to do. We ran out of time so she said we'd talk about it next week. I hate that.