A petition calling for the termination of a Near Eastern languages and civilization (NELC) assistant professor had gathered nearly 900 signatures as of Monday.
The petition was created by an Arab student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety, who came across Dr. Hadar Khazzam-Horovitz’s public social media profiles earlier this year.
Wanting to learn more about the cultures and history of the Middle East, the student found a class taught by Khazzam-Horovitz. They planned on taking it, since she had good ratings, then they found her public Facebook account.
The student scrolled through Khazzam-Horovitz’s public account and found a post from 2012.
The post contained two images. The photo on the left was labeled “Brave Jewish Mom” and showed a Jewish mother protecting her child by using her own body as a shield. On the right, a second photo labeled “Brave Arab Mom” showed an Arab woman appearing to strap weaponry onto her child. Along with the weapons, the child is wearing a ski mask and a keffiyeh. The bottom of the photo reads, “Whose side are YOU on?”
Finding the post offensive, the student decided to report it.
“That is not a political view, that is not a different perspective,” the student said. “That is you expressing your racism.”
The student was concerned since Khazzam-Horovitz taught and continues to teach a history course on the Middle East.
“You know how culture and history courses work,” they said. “The instructor mainly shapes the curriculum or their views dominate the material.”
Using the UW Bias Incident Reporting Tool, the student reported the post April 9. The advisory committee said Khazzam-Horovitz was unaware of her social media post and told the student to contact Dr. Selim Sirri Kuru, the chair of the NELC department.
A few days after their initial report to the Bias Incident Advisory Committee, the student noticed Khazzam-Horovitz removed all posts and modified her account.
A week after the original report, the student decided to get in contact with Dr. Denise Dudzinski, professor and chair of the department of bioethics & humanities. Shortly after, the student received an email from Sirri Kuru and an apology letter from Khazzam-Horovitz where she apologized for the post and said she does not remember posting it.
“I wanted to write my sincere apology for sharing this Facebook post over eight years ago,” Khazzam-Horovitz wrote in the email to the student. “I do not remember posting this terrible post and seeing this now horrifies me as it does not represent my values or my world view.”
The student did not accept Khazzam-Horovitz’s apology, saying they were “not convinced of any change.”
They took screenshots of her account and the post to show how Khazzam-Horovitz modified the account after they reported the post, while the matter was still under investigation.
“She didn't give one honest justification since the start,” the student said. “No, she is trying to adjust her explanation.”
They met with Sirri Kuru to discuss this incident, expressing their demands to take action against Khazzam-Horovitz through suspension or termination.
Frustrated with the department’s handling of the situation, the student created a petition calling for the termination of Khazzam-Horovitz.
Khazzam-Horovitz sent the apology she wrote to the student as an official statement.
“I have always fought against racism or discrimination of any kind, and this 2012 post does not reflect my opinions and teaching,” she wrote in the email.
Sirri Kuru said the NELC department condemned the post, calling it offensive, but acknowledged Khazzam-Horovitz’s apology.
“The Department, once alerted to the post, agreed it was offensive and condemned the post unequivocally,” Sirri Kuru wrote in an email. “Dr. Khazzam Horovitz also recognized that it was unacceptable, removed it, issued a written apology, and offered to meet the student.”
In an email statement, Robert Stacey, the dean of the College of Arts & Science, said he does not intend to pursue the matter
“I am not going to defend the post, which dates from 2012. It is not defensible, either in 2012 or now,” Stacey said. “Professor Khazzam-Horovitz has admitted placing the post on her Facebook account.”
The case has been transferred to the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO), which investigates whether a UW employee has violated university non-discrimination or non-retaliation policies.
UCIRO declined to comment on the issue.
From their perspective, the only adequate action the student said they received was through Dudzinski’s assistance to connect them to Sirri Kuru and Khazzam-Horovitz, and ceasing to offer Khazzam-Horovitz’s course — Bioethics: Secular and Jewish Perspectives — until issues were addressed.
Dudzinski also declined to comment on this story.
“If there's no accountability, there's nothing to fear,” the student said. “There is nothing to restrict them, [nothing] to hold them accountable.”
Reach reporter Jadenne Radoc Cabahug at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jadennecabahug
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