Islamic, Jewish Groups Protest Program Cutbacks at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation have drafted a letter to Youngstown State University asking that the administration rethink terminating the contracts of two professors responsible for religious and Holocaust education.

The joint letter, released to the press on Tuesday, urges the university to renew the contracts of Jacob Labendz, an assistant professor of history specializing in Judaic and Holocaust studies, and Mustansir Mir, a professor of Islamic studies. 

“The separation from the university of these two scholars will result in the de facto elimination by the YSU administration of two critical academic programs, Religious studies and Judaic and Holocaust studies,” the letter reads.

In November, YSU announced that it would cut 26 programs starting in the fall of 2022 as it wrestles with low enrollment figures. In addition, the administration said it would eliminate the Center for Islamic Studies and the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies. 

Mir teaches a variety of courses on world religions and is the only full-time faculty member in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences with an expertise in religion, the letter says.  “His loss would mean the end of the study of religious traditions around the world at YSU.”

The administration’s decision not to renew Labendz’s contract comes at a time when the study of the Holocaust is most critical, the letter states. 

“During these perilous, polarized times, where we are seeing a substantial uptick in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and political misappropriation of Holocaust history, it is more vital now than ever that a pedagogically qualified historian be present on campus to teach about and direct programming on this material,” the letter reads. “The history of the Holocaust matters and cannot be forgotten.”

The Business Journal has reached out to YSU for comment and has not yet received a response.

Click HERE to read the full text of the letter.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.