Last week, the University of Colorado Boulder became the latest target in a series of “doxxing campaigns” sponsored by a conservative non-profit based in Washington, D.C. The organization, Accuracy In Media, sent a “doxxing truck” to the CU Boulder’s campus on Jan. 30 with a singular intention in mind.
According to the AIM’s President, Adam Guillette, the organization targeted CU Boulder in response to the ethnic studies department’s Oct. 22 statement supporting a “free Palestine,” which was met with backlash and later removed from the department’s website.
“On most campuses, we target the students,” Guillette said. “But at CU Boulder, we’re currently targeting that faculty, that department.”
AIM sponsored a fleet of trucks that visited college campuses across the nation on Jan. 30 and 31, displaying images and names of students and faculty the organization deemed antisemitic.
One target of the campaign was CU Boulder, where names and images of faculty from the university’s ethnic studies department were displayed under the words “Boulder’s Leading Antisemites.”
The truck planned to drive around campus on both Jan. 30 and 31, but due to threats and vandalism, the driver would not return for a second day, according to Guillette.
“It’s a chilling climate in many ways,” said Professor Thomas Pegelow Kaplan, the interim director of the program in Jewish Studies at CU Boulder. “When they will just make blatant inferences from that statement from Ethnic Studies and single out the chair and other leaders of the department as blatant antisemites.”
However, it is unclear which, if any, of the faculty AIM targeted at CU Boulder authored the statement released by the ethnic studies department. At least one professor within the department moved their classes online due to safety concerns after being advised to by the Ethnic Studies Department Chair Arturo Aldama.
None of the faculty targeted on the “mobile billboards” responded to the CU Independent’s request for comment.
Community reactions to the ‘doxxing truck’
CU Boulder leadership condemned acts aimed to intimidate and threaten faculty, students and staff in a statement released hours after the truck appeared on campus.
“Outside groups publicly attempting to shame CU community members is not a productive way to address the difficult conversations facing our society in a respectful and civil manner,” the statement read.
Several campus groups also denounced AIM’s campaign, including CU Boulder Hillel, an organization for Jewish students.
In a statement to the CU Independent, CU Boulder Hillel wrote, “Off-campus groups like these that engage in harmful activities such as doxxing only exacerbate tensions and undermine efforts to counter antisemitism and improve the campus climate for Jewish students and all students at the University of Colorado.”
Hillel also called on the university to take “proactive, productive measures” to counter antisemitism and support Jewish students.
CU Boulder’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine condemned the intimidation tactic. “To Accuracy in Media: we affirm that your cowardly tactics will not deter us; you are not welcome at CU Boulder,” the message shared on social media read.
AIM sponsored these mobile billboards on other prominent campuses last year. In November 2023, a Columbia University student filed a lawsuit against AIM after he was included on a billboard for being the leader of an organization that signed a letter in support of Palestine. However, the student says he was not a member of the group when the letter was signed.
Pegelow Kaplan said that right-wing groups have frequently used similar tactics to gain traction.
“You see this as a key example of antisemitism being instrumentalized,” Pegelow Kaplan said. “And, of course, it’s not unique to this organization. It’s not unique to Colorado. It’s not unique to the [United] States. We see this all over.”
Canary Mission and AIM
AIM also promoted a petition that urges employers to “blacklist applicants” who they believe have engaged in antisemitism on college campuses.
The petition directs to a database created by the Canary Mission. Canary Mission lists students, faculty, professionals and organizations across the country that have expressed what the database quantifies as antisemitic or anti-Israel views.
Entries cite individual’s affiliations with political or identity-based groups and any instances of actions that Canary deems antisemitic, as well as identifying personal information such as social media handles.
Guillette, AIM’s president, said there is a difference between people who support Palestine and people he considers antisemitic.
“I think it’s acceptable to be against the Israeli government,” he said. “That’s perfectly fine, and it’s similarly acceptable to oppose genocide and support Palestine. But when individuals or organizations engage in overt antisemitism, that’s where we draw the line.”
However, some CU community members have criticized Canary Mission, saying the group doesn’t always accurately represent the true ideologies and beliefs of the people included in the database.
“I am very conscious and very aware of the ways that antisemitism can often be embedded into pro-Palestine rhetoric, and it’s something that I … dedicate myself to working out and eradicating antisemitism,” said Anabelle Brown, a member of CU Boulder’s SJP. “When you have a site like Canary Mission, what they’re doing is using sensationalized terms that don’t accurately represent situations or people to spin a story of bigotry.”
Alex Borenstein, a CU Boulder alumnus, was included in the Canary Mission’s database. The mission reached out to their employers and provided evidence of posts on their personal X account that the mission cited as antisemitic. According to Borenstein, their employer didn’t take any further actions, such as termination.
“It’s all about just silencing any dissent and conversation,” Borenstein said.
The future of conversations on campus
Joud Al Khalifa, a CU Boulder student, protested for a ceasefire at the Boulder County Courthouse on Feb. 4. She said the goal of her presence was to inspire discussions.
“We need to be having this conversation at the university because we’re all adults there,” Al Khalifa said. “We’re all here trying to get an education to be part of society in the future and if we can’t handle a conversation about a very prominent world issue right now, we’re not preparing nobody.”
Pegelow Kaplan said he was “saddened” that CU Boulder faculty and students had been targeted, especially with the intention of interfering with their job prospects.
Rena Elfenbein, a member of CU Boulder’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel, a Zionist student activist group, said she has been working to promote respectful dialogue on campus amidst rising complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
“I feel that our administration really needs to send out a message by saying antisemitism will not be allowed on this campus and there will be serious repercussions for anyone who perpetuates this,” she said. “And I don’t necessarily know that shaming them is the right way to go about it.”
Chancellor Philip DiStefano called antisemitism “completely unacceptable” in a statement published on university social media on Nov. 6. He encouraged anyone who has experienced antisemitism or “other discrimination” to report the incident to the university.
Samuel Veta, a Jewish student who said he faced antisemitic harassment at CU Boulder, said his feelings of safety have changed on campus, especially as a student who wears a Kippah, a traditional Jewish head covering.
“After [Oct. 7], I just didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t know who was watching me from behind. I didn’t know who was following me or looking at me judging,” Veta said.
He urged his peers to educate themselves and seek out Jewish-led conversations about antisemitism. As for faculty and staff, Veta wants to see them offer more support to Jewish students.
“They don’t need to start virtue signaling sides for either one,” Veta said. “But to show that they are there for all CU students, I think that is what’s most important of all.”
As a public university, CU Boulder cannot prevent demonstrations such as AIM’s unless they are disrupting campus functions.
“CU Boulder Police Department closely monitors situations like the one last week in order to both keep the campus safe and avoid any disruptions,” said Steve Hurlbert, the chief spokesperson for CU Boulder.
Pegelow Kaplan said it was important for students to have safe spaces to discuss ongoing conflict and trauma. He added that people should also have the right to criticize the actions of governments in these conflicts without fear of backlash.
“So does [the consequences of AIM’s campaign] mean that one shouldn’t discuss issues of antisemitism or antisemitic statements?” Pegelow Kaplan said. “Of course not. But there are different ways of doing that.”
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