Amid a resurgence in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the country, Jewish and Zionist students on campus face bigotry and vitriol that threaten the values of academic freedom and open discourse across the country. But all is not lost.
Today, the paradigm is shifting in alumni communities across the country as younger alumni realize the power that they possess—alongside alumni who are decades out and remain connected to their alma maters—to affect change on campus. A mass mobilization of advocates who have recently graduated has the potential to speak volumes. These alumni were recently on the ground; they have a detailed understanding of the most pertinent issues at their respective universities. And there’s already an organization dedicated to providing a forum for them to come together: Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF).
No organization has harnessed the collective, untapped power of alumni to defend campus communities from discrimination—until now.
I witnessed the power of mobilizing together firsthand at my alma mater, San Diego State University (SDSU), when I was a student from 2011-15. I was involved in Hillel and Aztecs for Israel (now a Students Supporting Israel chapter), and was a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi. During my senior year, when a bigoted, campus-wide BDS referendum was placed on the ballot for all students to vote on, we mobilized quickly. We worked to show how the referendum was discriminatory. And we won. The referendum was defeated thanks, almost entirely, to our cohesion as a block of students who believed in the protection of Jewish and Zionist students on campus.
When I graduated, the feeling was bittersweet. I was moving on to a new chapter in my life, but I felt I was also leaving behind my years of activism and dedication to Israel and Jewish life. That feeling, however, was short-lived. Today, I serve as the associate director of Alums for Campus Fairness. Every day, I get to continue this critical work and scale my impact from my time as a student.
Since it was founded in 2015, ACF takes alumni off the sidelines. It represents the unified alumni voice on campus on issues of anti-Semitism, the demonization of Israel and related bigotry. With 39 chapters and thousands of alumni, we form a united front, sending a clear message that there is no place for hate on campus.
In only a few years, the organization has transformed the way that alumni mobilize across the country and how they amplify their voices.
At New York University, ACF spearheaded a letter of 140 faculty and alumni signatories calling on president Andrew Hamilton to rescind the President’s Service Award that was bestowed to Students for Justice in Palestine.
At Vassar College, where ACF’s first chapter was founded, president Elizabeth Bradley issued a strong statement in response to students who chanted “from the river to the sea” and “Israel is an apartheid state” at an Israeli speaker on campus. Chapter members were proud to be among the alumni referenced by Bradley in her statement.
More recently, ACF released a landmark report on the systematic anti-Semitism and engrained delegitimization of Israel at Columbia University and its sister school, Barnard College—and called for substantial changes by the university.
For years, students who graduated from college felt their involvement in campus politics ended abruptly when they left school. ACF shows that this is no longer the case. Today, young alumni can continue building upon their involvement as undergraduates by adding their voice to the chorus of stakeholders committed to protecting Jewish and Zionist students on campus.
It’s no secret that alumni can make a notable impact on a university’s endowment, development and reputation. Alumni have a seat at the proverbial table along with students, faculty and the administration. But now, for the first time, ACF is transforming how these alumni, especially younger ones, combat bigotry, ignorance and anti-Semitism on campus.
For me, helping to defeat one BDS referendum at SDSU in 2015 was just the start.
Joel Bond is associate director of Alums for Campus Fairness, America’s unified alumni voice on issues of anti-Semitism, demonization of Israel and bigotry.