Professor Wins Service Award, Raising Concerns From Alumni and Students Due to Controversial Emails To Alumni Signatories of Israel/Palestine Solidarity Statement

April 11, 2024
11 mins read

Frances Walton ’26 and Belén Yudess ’25
Copy Editor and Copy Editor Intern

Request to Readers: People we have interviewed, including Professor Weinberg and all interviewees, have expressed concerns for their safety. We, as writers and a publication, do not want any harm or harassment to be directed at anyone in this article. We, the writers of this article, have also received allegations regarding our integrity as reporters and fear retribution. These serious issues concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict should be handled in an empathetic manner towards restorative justice-oriented conflict resolution, not further aggravation. We encourage all readers to use this lens both when reading and responding.

A Scripps professor who won a prestigious, $5000 teaching award last month has been embroiled in an email controversy since October when she messaged former students and advisees of hers who had signed an alumni solidarity petition with Palestine. In the email, she broke off contact with them, asking them to never contact her again.

A group of alumni had reported philosophy professor Rivka Weinberg’s unsolicited communication to them, which Weinberg described as “intentionally harsh,” in response to their signing of the petition following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. 

Weinberg had sent at least five emails to recent alumni who had signed the “Scripps Alumni Solidarity Statement: Demanding a Ceasefire and an Immediate End to Israeli-Led Genocide and Occupation in Palestine.” It is unclear if the wording of this petition has changed between the alumni’s time of signing and writing this article. Weinberg’s emails contained the same message:


“Dear [alum name],

Thank you for signing a factually false rabidly anti semitic ‘Alumni Solidarity Statement.’ It’s good to know that you’re an ignorant antisemite.

Kindly refrain from contacting me ever again.



Weinberg said in an email to The Scripps Voice (TSV), “I sent one message, privately, to a handful of alums – private citizens – with whom I had had close relationships, regarding a statement replete with gross factual inaccuracies and antisemitic tropes that they signed shortly after the October 7th attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists in Israel. The message was private and should have remained private. I will not publicly comment on private communications other than to say that my message was intentionally harsh and not in my usual style to show that I saw the matter as exceptionally offensive and dangerous. I dared to stand up to a very fashionable form of campus hate. I am not sorry.”

One of the alumni contacted by Weinberg, Ishta Nabakka ’23, said she was astonished by the message. “When I received the email, it was shocking because I’d never initiated a conversation about [Israel or Palestine],” Nabakka told TSV. “And I couldn’t believe I’d gotten a hate email from my professor for signing a ceasefire petition. I just thought that was ridiculous.”

Two other alums contacted by Weinberg agreed to talk to TSV on condition their names not be used in order to avoid jeopardizing job prospects.

One alum who received the same message said she was less shocked. “It was disturbing yet not surprising to receive this email from Weinberg,” the alum said via email.

Nabakka had a long-term working relationship with Weinberg, adding to her frustrations. “She was my philosophy advisor and she knew me in that context and to say that I was being ignorant about something [caused me to] undermine my own knowledge or [ability to analyze and] be objective about a situation,” Nabakka said. “I couldn’t believe that my professor, someone that I looked up to and had supported me through my academic career, had said this to me. For a minute, I questioned myself and felt insecure but ultimately I knew I wasn’t in the wrong and I felt confident about attaching my name to the petition that was calling for, at the bare minimum, a ceasefire and aid to Gaza.”

Shortly after receiving the email, Nabakka connected via Instagram with other alumni who received similar messages from Weinberg. Another alum also received an email regarding the alumni petition from Scripps philosophy professor, Yuval Avnur. Avnur confirmed that he sent an email to an alum regarding the petition.

The aforementioned emails raise questions as to how students and faculty navigate their relationships in the face of conflicting perspectives on global political events. Although these differing viewpoints may cause tensions between faculty and students, these exchanges illustrate the need for a larger conversation about student-faculty communications.

The recipients of Weinberg’s email were all academically acquainted with her through the philosophy major, recommendation letters, or Weinberg’s classes, Nabakka explained.

Two recipients of emails from the Scripps full philosophy professors wanted to note that a majority of the alumni contacted were former students of color with names that may reflect their racial or ethnic identities. “[Most] students affected are people of color,” an alum said.

“I had received an email from [Weinberg] on my Scripps email as well as my personal email which I had never given her. I presume she searched my name, found my website, and proceeded to email me on my personal email,” this alum said by email. “I also received a notification from LinkedIn stating that Rivka Weinberg had viewed my profile about a week after receiving the initial email. The lengths to which she has gone to [contact] her former students is deeply disturbing to me.” 

Nabakka received an email from Weinberg to her school account and a request for a LinkedIn message. 

Weinberg has never acted in a way that has directly impacted Nabakka’s potential career or ability to receive a recommendation, Nabakka said. But Weinberg “is farther along in her career, established and well connected, [while] I was at the beginning so [I] was worried about what she could do by virtue of being in her position,” she said. “You need letters of recommendation for grad school, jobs, etc, and so a lot of us felt like, if there was any retaliation from our professors, it could fuck up our current or future prospects.”

One alum described that their “heart aches for philosophy students who had counted on her for letters of recommendation. More than that, my heart aches for Middle Eastern students on campus (as well as all students of color) as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students.”

Four of the alumni whom Weinberg contacted wrote a three-page letter in October addressed to (titles reflecting positions in October 2023) Scripps President Amy Marcus-Newhall, Interim Associate Dean of Faculty Jennifer Armstrong, Associate Dean of Faculty Warren Liu, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students DeMethra LaSha “Sha” Bradley, and Associate Dean of Faculty for Racial Equity Mary Hatcher-Skeers. 

“We talked about the kind of power imbalance that was very palpable between us and Rivka because she does have a lot more power than us,” Nabakka said. “It was not something we expected with a professor that I felt like I trusted.”

Nabakka then explained the timeline of the email communications with administration. “We sent it on Oct. 25 and there was no reply,” they said. “Then, a couple weeks later, I sent an email [asking the administrators to] acknowledge that [they] received it. Jen Armstrong was the only one that actually responded.” 

Dean Armstrong’s email to Nabakka read:


“Dear Ishta, 

Thank you for reaching back out.

I want to assure you that your concerns and experiences have been heard. The College takes them seriously and is taking steps to address them. As these involve personnel matters, I am unable to share any specific information.   


Dean Armstrong”


Dean Armstrong has not responded to TSV’s request for comment.

The dean was “basically saying nothing, [she] didn’t really respond to anything,” Nabakka said.

Although Nabakka and other alumni expressed concern regarding the administration’s response to Weinberg’s statements and the political atmosphere on campus, 150 named 5C professors, 36 anonymous, and four departments (Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies, Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies, Intercollegiate Department of Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at the Claremont Colleges, Scripps College Department of Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures) signed the Claremont Consortium Faculty Statement on Gaza dated Oct. 31. It read in part, “We further share our outrage that Zionist advocacy organizations have subjected and continue to subject Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students and faculty, students of all backgrounds who advocate for Palestinian rights, and faculty of all backgrounds who teach on Palestine and Israel to bullying, harassment, and suppression of their right to free speech.”

On the same day that Nabakka and the three other alums sent the email to Scripps administrators, 5C students participated in a national student walkout for Palestine. Scripps students gathered outside Malott for a teach-in at 1:30 p.m. followed by a march at 2:00 p.m., according to the plans posted on @claremontsjp’s Instagram page. 

Sophia Heffner ’26, participated in the walkout. Heffner described that she “was standing out on the Bowling Green, and […] saw [Weinberg] towards Balch. [She was] recording students and laughing.”

Students note that faculty responses to protest help dictate the environment of protest on campus. “That faculty wouldn’t be behind us and wouldn’t be supporting their students [in their freedom of speech] made the protest itself feel more sketchy and more unsafe,” another student protester said in an interview. The student felt “antagonized by staff and faculty […] I think taking out your phone to take a picture shows that you think something is wrong.”

Weinberg responded to reports that she was seen taking photographs of students at the Malott protest. “I did not film students. I took some private photographs at one public rally to assess crowd size because I understood slogans chanted at the rally to be dangerous to Jews on campus. I was appalled. Some Jewish students were crying. How many people were there chanting? The pictures were not intended for identification or publication and were never shared or published,” she told TSV.

Heffner and three other student attendees did not report seeing any students crying during the duration of the protest.

A Scripps sophomore attended the protest and said, “I thought it was really strange to see [Weinberg] taking pictures of us because it seemed like it didn’t align with what Scripps is about and why I came to a place like Scripps because I wanted to come here to be around professors and faculty that would uplift my voice as a woman at a women’s college. […] This just felt like the opposite. It felt like a scare tactic.” 

One student was concerned about being photographed, as she “fear[s] suspension if identified. [It would mean] the end of my collegiate career and any chances of getting into internships or post-bac programs, especially as a student of color.” 

Scripps Associated Students (SAS) President Lily Dunkin ’24 acknowledged the harmful ramifications posed by photography of protesters. “In my capacity as SAS President I meet weekly with a plethora of different administrators throughout the institution,” Dunkin said in an email. “I have been told multiple times, by different people, at all levels, that when actions occur photos and videos are routinely sent by Scripps community members (this includes faculty) to administrators who then identify students involved.

After hearing about faculty writing emails to alumni regarding their signing of the Scripps alumni solidarity statement and capturing images during a student walkout, some Scripps students said they felt wary about pursuing a philosophy degree and engaging in future interactions with Weinberg.

Students did not take issue with Weinberg receiving recognition for her quality of teaching or ability to head the philosophy department, but rather, the timing of her award in the context of the larger discourse surrounding her. “I’m not going to deny […] she is the foundation of the philosophy department and knows everything and is very knowledgeable, and I respect her [but] every time I dread going into office hours,” a Scripps philosophy student said. “All that shows to me [is] that admin is on their side. […] The award kind of seemed like a slap in the face to anything that we’ve been trying to say about her.”

Weinberg was one of the 12 faculty who received the Mary W. Johnson Faculty Achievement Award last month for her excellence in service towards the college. 

This award was given to Weinberg in March despite the Dean of Faculty receiving an email in October from a group of alumni who had reported Weinberg’s unsolicited communication towards them in response to their signing of the petition. The award guidelines note that “normally two of the awards will be given for community service […] In exceptional years, the selection committee may give more awards in community service at their discretion.” Weinberg, among two other faculty members, was awarded for her service.

A Scripps philosophy student said in an interview, “As someone who is Jewish and pro-Palestine, I think [Weinberg’s communication with alumni] makes me incredibly uncomfortable because even amongst peers or faculty or teachers, I don’t think you want to have anyone [bother] you for any political point of view. As we’ve seen at Scripps, freedom of speech is being called into question amongst the students […] and having [Weinberg’s emails] follow you outside of Scripps, I think, is a big threat and really inappropriate to our rights as students.”

Weinberg responded to the report that students feel uncomfortable taking classes or majoring in the philosophy department due to fears of bias based on political beliefs. “I am skeptical of this report as the Philosophy Department does not teach Zionism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has never had a single thesis remotely related to this topic. The Philosophy Department does not take a stand on matters other than academic philosophy, as it is our job to teach philosophy, not to indoctrinate students with particular political views. In contrast, several Scripps Departments and intercollegiate programs have published statements taking a political stand on these issues, which would potentially be of concern to students with opposing views,” she said via email.

Nabakka responded to student frustrations towards the Scripps administration’s reaction to student protest. “It seems like the way that Scripps and the other colleges are responding to student activism is in a way of fear-mongering students and going directly against the core value of education which is to encourage thoughtful and engaging conversations, and action, with your peers and professors,” Nabakka said. “If I was on campus, I would be both scared and pissed about admin limiting my freedom of speech and protest.” Their comments came before the events of April 5, when 19 5C students were arrested at a sit-in practicing civil disobedience after the Pomona College administration ordered the removal of the mock apartheid wall on Pomona campus. 

Administration will not stand up for students who criticize faculty views, said one alum who was contacted by Weinberg. “The powers that be will always protect tenured white professors,” the alum said. “What I truly want is for Professor Weinberg (and Zionist/Zionist-sympathizer professors alike) to take a step back from their vitriolic email rampages and educate themselves on the plight of the Palestinian people. […] If I could, I would grant her the skill and power of empathy, not just empathy towards people to whom she can relate, but for all people – that would be my ideal response to this situation.”

Nabakka urged students and the Scripps community “to, if possible, boycott her classes and let other students know where she stands. […] But, it is a bit of a catch-22 because sometimes you just really need to take a class with someone to fulfill whatever requirement.”

One of the alums who received an email from Weinberg addressed, “I imagine Prof. Weinberg may read this article and feel irritated to see her former students engaging in emotional discussions about the genocide of Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. She has expressed in classroom settings her belief that Gen Zs are too sensitive, too used to having our hands held through life – I believe this mindset led her to send such an inappropriate […] email. I cried about the situation to my mother, feeling very confused how a Professor who watched me grow up from ages 19-24 could oversee the years of our academic and personal relationship, and label me an ‘ignorant antisemite.’ Professor Weinberg, respectfully, has no idea what she’s talking about when it comes to her students, their connections to Judaism, or the ongoing genocide in Palestine.”

If Scripps staff or faculty have contacted you about your political views and actions, and you wish to connect with a community of contactees; please email

Photo Courtesy of an Anonymous Source

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