The Hindu American Foundation expresses its support for a grassroots, student-led movement to protest a series of actions by Prof. Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor at Rutgers University-Newark, that is contributing to an unsafe academic environment for Hindu students on the university campus. Both Rutgers University’s own Hindu student organizations, Hindu Students Council (HSC), Hindu Youth for Unity, Virtues and Action (YUVA), , and an online movement Hindus on Campus, are raising their collective voice against Truschke.
Both organizations have documented a series of actions by Truschke, especially on social media, that have mocked Hindu deities (called Lord Rama a misogynistic pig), misrepresented Hindu scripture as warmongering, or falsely claimed Hindu organizations were involved in the Capitol Hill attack. False claims like these on social media have, the students said, led to bullying and harassment and a campus that feels unsafe to claim a Hindu identity.
The Hindu American Foundation supports academic freedom even when the conclusions drawn by scholars are in stark disagreement with our own. Disagreements and discussion, expressed with civility, are the bedrock of free expression and inquiry.
With academic freedom, however, comes an obligation of academic integrity and professional ethics.
We appreciate that members of Rutgers’ Administration and South Asian Studies Program responded to concerns raised by students, organizations, and countless others in the broader Hindu community regarding Prof. Audrey Truschke’s behavior and have promised to dialogue.
But dialogue is not enough in light of Rutgers’ own policy on professional ethics and a well-documented pattern of Prof. Truschke’s unrestrained, inciting, and many times, dishonest social media posts about Hinduism, Hindus, India, and Indians.
Prof. Audrey Truschke has created an environment of hostility and fear for too many current and incoming Hindu students at Rutgers University.
Between now and any listening sessions the administration and faculty hold with the Rutgers’ Hindu community, we reiterate some of the demands made by students and ask that:
- The University issue a formal public statement distancing the institution from Prof. Truschke’s irresponsible and unnecessarily incendiary social media posts.
- The administration issue Prof. Truschke a disciplinary warning, including a reminder of Rutgers Policy 60.5.1 – Academic Freedom and Statement on Professional Ethics.
- The administration require Prof. Truschke to undergo mandatory cultural sensitivity training to protect Hindu students from further harm.
- The administration suspend Prof. Audrey Truschke from teaching responsibilities for South Asian History II and any other courses for which pedagogy focuses on the Hindu religion or Hindu religious life until the University has thoroughly investigated student and parent concerns and provided an amicable resolution and Prof. Truschke undergoes mandatory sensitivity training mentioned above.
- Provide support and funding for Hindu student groups to invite faculty and researchers from other institutions to provide different viewpoints and perspectives on Hinduism and India.
We condemn any abuse or threats of harm against individuals exercising their academic freedom, including those directed against Prof. Truschke. But Prof. Truschke and her online supporters assigning blame to Hindu students and organizations is equally wrong, reckless, and lacking of academic integrity considering lack of evidence and the anonymity prevalent on social media platforms.
Rutgers Policy on Academic Freedom, which includes its Statement on Professional Ethics states in part:
- “They [Professors] accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. They practice intellectual honesty.”
- “Professors demonstrate respect for the students as individuals and adhere to their proper role as intellectual guides and counselors.”
- “As members of their community, professors have the rights and obligations of other citizens. Professors measure the urgency of these obligations in the light of their responsibilities to their subject, to their students, to their profession, and to their institution.”
The American Historical Association, of which Prof. Truschke is a member, states in its Standards of Professional Conduct, in part:
- “Professional integrity in the practice of history requires awareness of one’s own biases and a readiness to follow sound method and analysis wherever they may lead.“
- “The political, social, and religious beliefs of history teachers necessarily inform their work, but the right of the teacher to hold and express such convictions can never justify falsification, misrepresentation, or concealment, or the persistent intrusion of material unrelated to the subject of the course.”
- “While it is perfectly acceptable for historians to share their own perspectives with the public, they should also strive to demonstrate how the historical profession links evidence with arguments to build fair-minded, nuanced, and responsible interpretations of the past. The desire to score points as an advocate should never tempt a historian to misrepresent the historical record or the critical methods that the profession uses to interpret that record.”