EVANSTON, Ill (WLS) -- The Northwestern Wildcats are gearing up for their first appearance in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl against the University of Utah this weekend. At the same time, the university is facing a blistering backlash ahead of the matchup in a targeted ad campaign set to launch digitally during the game and into the New Year on television, calling out NU and its president Michael Schill for allegedly fumbling the institution's response to the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.
The six-figure ad campaign was created by Alums for Campus Fairness, a nonprofit which works with alumni to call out antisemitism on college campuses across the country.
In a statement, Alums for Campus Fairness executive director Avi Gordon wrote in part, "By refusing to define and denounce antisemitism, Northwestern is tacitly endorsing the climate of fear and intimidation for Jews on campus...It's beyond time for Northwestern President Michael Schill to take decisive action against individuals violating university policy and adopt the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism."
A Northwestern spokesperson responded to the ad campaign, writing in part, "These are outlandish claims not based on facts, including the claim that "student and faculty groups 'resoundingly support' Hamas Terrorism...Moreover, President Schill has been outspoken condemning antisemitism and the terrorist attack on Israel... Northwestern does not tolerate antisemitism or discriminatory acts against any members of its community."
"I'm really disappointed in how my alma mater has handled this," said alumnus Mike Balkin. "I don't want to give a dime to Northwestern, as well as a lot of other people I know, don't want to give money to the school if they are not going to stand up for what we believe is right here."
Richard Goldberg, senior advisor at the Washington DC-based national security think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said higher education institutions need to become more aware of how antisemitism is presenting itself on campus.
"How do they measure what is antisemitism? Is there an independent benchmark?" he said. "What universities are failing to recognize that's in the definition are acts of antisemitism that manifest as anti-Zionism, that are calls to say Israel is illegitimate."
Organizers say the ads will first appear digitally this weekend on a variety of platforms online during Northwestern's bowl game, before they start being broadcast on TV in early in 2024 when students return to campus.
Northwestern University is aware of a planned advertising campaign by an outside, unaffiliated advocacy group alleging that the University and President Michael Schill are not taking a strong enough stand against antisemitism on campus. These are outlandish claims not based on facts, including the claim that "student and faculty groups 'resoundingly support' Hamas Terrorism." Moreover, President Schill has been outspoken condemning antisemitism and the terrorist attack on Israel and has taken several proactive steps to address antisemitism on campus, including the establishment of the President's Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate. Acts that violate our codes of conduct will continue to be immediately addressed and individuals will be held accountable under University policies and procedures. Northwestern does not tolerate antisemitism or discriminatory acts against any members of its community. Northwestern will not stand idly by as outside groups push false narratives to harm the University and our community.