NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A Rutgers microbiology professor is facing a myriad of disciplinary actions, including possible suspension without pay, following allegations that he shared dozens of anti-Semitic posts on his Facebook.
Michael Chikindas, a microbiology professor at the food science department, can no longer teach required courses or serve at the Center for Digestive Health in the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health.
The moves were announced December 8 in a joint email from Rutgers President Robert Barchi and Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Deb Dutta.
Chikindas will also have to undergo a cultural sensitivity training program. Should he ever go back to teaching, he’ll still have to regularly partake in the program.
But Chikandas, a tenured professor, could also be suspended for a full semester without pay, pending a further disciplinary review as required by the bargaining agreement with Rutgers’ faculty union.
“While the university is and should always be a place that challenges students to grapple with complex and even controversial ideas, this situation has threatened the trust between professors and students that is a pre-requisite to learning,” reads the email.
Chikindas’ posts were first brought to light in late October by blogger Aussie Dave and his page, IsraellyCool, which featured dozens of screenshots from Chikindas’ page, depicting anti-Semitic rants, photos and interactions with other Facebook users.
His Facebook allegedly contained anti-Semitic characters, posts where he called “motherf***ing Jews,” the “most racist religion in the world,” and referring to Israel as a “terrorist country.” The professor’s Facebook page has reportedly been deleted.
In an email to NJ Advance Media, Chikindas alleged that his Facebook account was hacked.
"As a result of my account being hacked, I cannot say with confidence that everything on my page was shared by me: There is a good chance for some things being placed on my page by those who hacked my account," Chikindas wrote in an email to NJ Advance Media.
But Chikindas didn't deny sharing material on his Facebook that was considered anti-Semitic.
Miram Waghalter, a first-year student, self-identified Orthodox Jew and active member of Rutgers Hillel, started a petition soon after the posts surfaced, asking that the university take “swift action” against Chikindas for his Facebook posts.
The petition, as of 9:27 a.m. on December 9, garnered 5,613 signatures.
"I am glad that the university is taking action. The administration is making it clear that bigotry is not welcome on our campus," Waghalter said.
Despite the disciplinary actions against Chikindas, Barchi has previously said that the anti-Semitic posts were protected by academic freedom and the First Amendment.
“But the question is, does having posted that created an environment in his work that would compromise his ability to teach or to do research?” Barchi asked. “That’s an employment issue, so we are actually investigating him.”
Chikindas’ posts were revealed amidst a wave of bias incidents across the region.
In October, white supremacist recruitment flyers were posted across Rutgers University campus, as well as signs on the buses which read “Black Lives Don’t Matter.”
Then shortly before Halloween, a swastika was spray-painted on the side of a dormitory near the Brower Dining Hall.
In November, a postal envelope containing dog excrement and covered in swastikas was left on the yard of a Jewish resident in Highland Park.
TAPinto New Brunswick is partnering with ProPublica to track hate crimes in the region. The partnership is part of a nationwide project to track and report bias incidents across the country.