You may have been following the story the past couple of weeks: Yale shutters its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism; outcry ensues, with critics (including Tablet Magazine contributor Ron Rosenbaum) accusing the Ivy League university of political correctness and softness on anti-Semitism while defenders insisting it was more of a bureaucratic decision (Nextbook Press author Deborah Lipstadt’s take was roughly this, although with interesting wrinkles); and, finally, Yale announces plans for a new and improved group, the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism. (As Jeffrey Herf reaffirms, it’s an important topic.)
But until you read James Kirchick’s exposé today in Tablet Magazine, you won’t understand what really happened: How YIISA faltered because the brains behind it was an outsider and as much an activist as a scholar, neither of which endeared him to a university committed to ruffling as few feathers as possible, both inside its Gothic wall and faraway in the capitals of some unsavory regimes.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.