Rutgers University is keeping an adjunct professor on staff who recently represented the Syrian government at the United Nations, despite new calls from a human rights group calling for his termination.
Mazen Adi has taught courses on international criminal law, political corruption and extremism in the political science department at Rutgers University since 2015. For seven years before that, he was a high-ranking Syrian diplomat at the UN, defending the notoriously murderous regime of President Bashar al-Assad and making accusations against Syria's enemy, Israel, about its leaders trafficking weapons and children's organs.
Adi's connection to al-Assad was first revealed this week in an article on The Algemeiner, a Jewish news site. The story noted that Adi has described Syria as a democracy and a "trailblazer" in the fight against terrorism. Following the revelation, a human rights group, UN Watch, further documented Adi's pro-Syrian and anti-Israeli comments, calling for him to be fired — and deported.
But a spokesman for Rutgers, a public university, said in a statement that the school respects Adi's freedom of speech:
Rutgers University hired part-time lecturer Mazen Adi in 2015 because of his expertise in international law and diplomacy, and other fields. Rutgers faculty members enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any other individual in this country. Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the university will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely.
Adi's work for the Syrian government is omitted from his bio on the Rutgers website; the spokesman would not explain why.
This controversy comes just weeks after another Rutgers faculty member — Professor Michael Chikindas, in the food science department — defended himself after allegedly posting anti-Semitic rants on Facebook.