The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has issued a call to UMD President Wallace Loh to "oversee a full and complete investigation to determine the extent to which anti-Semitism and/or anti-Israel bias played a role" in Professor Melissa Landa's being let go this June after more than a decade at the education college.
The JCRC drafted a sample letter for supporters to send to UMD administrators, which reads, "Recent years have witnessed a chilling increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias and harassment on college campuses nationwide, and we are disturbed that such behavior is now being alleged at University of Maryland, which is the academic and professional home for so many Jewish students and faculty."
The letter invokes UMD's pledge to "to reaffirm our core values of diversity, inclusion, respect and civil discourse" after the on-campus murder in May of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, and asks the university to hold fast to those same principles when it comes to Landa.
Former Landa students have voiced their dismay and shock at her sudden termination, with dozens writing letters to administrators insisting that she be reinstated as UMD faculty.
Seventeen students signed their names to an open letter published in school paper, the Diamondback, stating: "It is not right to dismiss, without cause, one of the few professors who is an expert in helping students examine their own biases. Now, more than ever, this university needs Landa's expertise to help us move forward together as a community. We need Landa's knowledge and compassion so we feel unafraid to speak our minds and know we will be heard. Landa's presence made us feel safer. Knowing that we attend a university that does not value her enough to retain her makes us feel the exact opposite."
Education college administrators first removed Landa last year from a position she had long held on the literacy team, and took her off classes she had helped develop and taught for years. Days after the grievance board called to investigate that matter advised that it was "in the interest of the program" to find a path forward for Landa in the department, she was fired.
Kenneth Walter—executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, an academic free speech group where Landa is an active member—said college administrators' attitude to Landa began to shift when they "learned she was active outside the department on behalf of opposing wacko ideas about Israel."
There is an ongoing investigation by UMD's Title IX office into Landa's termination, though it is unclear who initiated the investigation or when it will conclude. A university spokesperson said the school does not comment on ongoing investigations.