Rutgers Professor Castigated for Social Media Posts

0

A Rutgers University professor is in hot water after anti-Semitic and homophobic social media posts that appeared on his pages have come to the community’s attention.

Michael Chikindas | Rutgers University

Michael Chikindas, a tenured microbiology professor in the Department of Food Science and director of the Center for Digestive Health, was first called out by blog Israellycool for his Facebook posts, which are littered with anti-Semitic rhetoric, caricatures and political cartoons.

Some posts make references to “international fat Jewish pockets,” or describe Zionism as “the best of two forms of racism.”

News of his posts has circulated, prompting Chikindas to deactivate his Facebook profile.

“These jewish motherf—–s do not control me,” read one post. “They can go and f— each other in their fat a—- — you see, I really do not have anything to [lose], hence nothing to be controlled.”

The Algemeiner summarized another of the posts: “Israel is the terrorist country aimed at genocidal extermination of the land’s native population, Palestinians … We must not forget that the Armenian Genocide was orchestrated by the Turkish Jews who pretended to be the Turks.”

The posts argued that Israel was failing in this “extermination” due to “the number of the Jews of ‘alternative’ sexual orientation (25% of the Tel Aviv inhabitants are gay/lesbians and Israel has more of these than the Netherlands).”

Chikindas was a visiting scientist for three years at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Chikindas did not return the Jewish Exponent’s request for comment, but in replying to The Algemeiner, he rejected accusations of anti-Semitism, pointing out that he was once married to a Jewish woman and had a child with her — and is 25 percent Ashkenazi Jewish himself. At the same time, he also told The Algemeiner that the Talmud has racist and supremacist content and said he received  “extremely degrading racist messages” from YouTube account users with Hebrew-language handles, written in Russian. Such messages were proof, he said, of the religion’s racism.

Chikindas worked as a junior researcher for three years at the Institute of Applied Microbiology in Russia, according to his LinkedIn profile. He joined the Rutgers faculty in 1999.

He also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Armenia and received his doctorate in genetics from a university in Moscow.

In response to one article Chikindas shared about Ben & Jerry’s supporting a marriage equality campaign, he wrote, “The Unilever owned company was created by a Jewish guy, and everybody knows that Israel, the country of the Jews … has one of the highest percentage of gays in the world.”

Chikindas worked as a microbiologist for Unilever for three years.

Rutgers released a statement: “Professor Michael Chikindas’ comments and posts on social media are antithetical to our university’s principles and values of respect for people of all backgrounds. … Such comments do not represent the position of the University.”

Rutgers is home to 6,400 Jewish undergraduates, among the largest of any U.S. university.

“Rutgers’ position on free speech is clear: All of the members of our community, including faculty and staff, are free to express their viewpoints in public forums as private citizens,” the statement continued. “We must also foster an environment free from discrimination, as articulated in our policy prohibiting discrimination.”

As such, Rutgers is reviewing Chikindas’ status.

Rutgers Hillel also released a statement saying Chikindas’ remarks “express a base racism, homophobia and misogyny.”

“Chikindas’ expressions are not simply matters of misguided opinion, but of brutish intimidation. Any Jewish or gay student would rightly fear taking a class with a professor who publicly expresses such vicious and hateful prejudice.”

Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel, said he was shocked at the extreme nature of Chikindas’ anti-Semitism.

“We’re talking about someone who, in really quite vile ways, has expressed hatred for Jewish students, who are almost 20 percent of the university; for gay students, there’s another several thousand,” he said.

A former student of Chikindas told Getraer there was nothing out of the ordinary about him, so the situation is “puzzling.”

Getraer noted that this could affect students getting internships or into grad school because Chikindas has left a “radioactive” tarnish on campus.

“For that reason alone, the university needs to hold him accountable,” he said.

But this is not the first incident of anti-Semitism at Rutgers. This issue came days after white supremacist flyers were found near the Hillel. And Jasbir Puar — an associate professor of women’s and gender studies with a history of stirring BDS controversy at Rutgers — is scheduled to release an anti-Israel book this month.

“This doesn’t take place in a vacuum,” Getraer said. “There is a moment here in America where the expression of hatred on the left and from the right seems to be coming from a more extreme commonplace.”

The New Brunswick campus responded with a student-led petition condemning the professor’s expressions and calling on the university to suspend him, pending the completion of the investigation. It has more than 4,000 signatures.

But in another bizarre twist, two days after The Algemeiner’s story went public, Chikindas told NJ.com that his Facebook profile had been “hacked.”

“As a result of my account being hacked, I cannot say with confidence that everything on my page was shared by me,” Chikindas said in an email to NJ Advance Media.

But Aussie Dave, creator of Israellycool, is skeptical.

The Jewish blogger follows many anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Facebook groups to gather material for his site, specifically his “Antisemites” section.

He browsed through some comments, and Chikindas’ name stood out — most names are usually Arab.

“I clicked on his name,” Dave said, “and the idiot obviously didn’t realize he had all of his posts public.”

It wasn’t until later that he Googled Chikindas and discovered his position at Rutgers.

Dave said others like Chikindas are “casual” anti-Semites who post these ideals matter-of-factly — and publicly. His goal is to expose people who are anti-Israel as the “Jew haters” they are.

“I’m glad he’s probably going to get fired,” he added. “I believe in free speech, but come on, that goes too far for a professor.”

[email protected]; 215-832-0737