University of Minnesota delays plan to hire genocide studies director

University of Minnesota bridge
The Minneapolis skyline as seen from the University of Minnesota campus.
Jay Gabler 2010

The University of Minnesota will likely wait more than a year to hire a new director of its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, after pausing a hiring process amid controversy.

Earlier this month, a search committee made up of university faculty and staff extended an offer to Raz Segal, an Israeli historian and genocide scholar. He has criticized Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, calling it “a textbook case of genocide.”

Two professors resigned from the center’s board in protest of the hiring offer, and Twin Cities Jewish organizations reached out to the university to critique the choice. Other professors and community members reached out in support of Segal.

The University has since paused the hiring process.

At Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, outgoing University of Minnesota Interim President Jeff Ettinger said he paused the search to hear community input for this hire.

“It is clear that our many Minnesota communities and stakeholders who care deeply about the work of the Center of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and want to see it succeed, and we look forward to engaging them in the search for the next director,” Ettinger said.

Ettinger said Friday that the school will put together a new search committee, this time with community members on it. He said the school will also create a community engagement plan.

Ettinger said community members have been included on the search committee for this position in the past, but were not on the committee for the most recent search.

Due to several other searches for open seats at the university, Ettinger said he anticipates the new search for this position starting in the 2025-26 school year. 

The center runs programming and academic research on genocides, including the Holocaust. Since 2021, it has been led by an interim director, who Ettinger said has agreed to stay on in an interim role until a permanent replacement is hired.

In response to the hiring pause, hundreds of professors from the University — and other higher education institutions around the world — signed an open letter to the school supporting Segal’s hiring.

“This is an outrageous violation of both academic freedom and the integrity of the faculty hiring process,” faculty wrote in the letter. “These objections to Dr. Segal’s appointment stem from a political disagreement with his academic scholarship, his perspective as a scholar of genocide and his defense of anti-genocide protest.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas praised the school’s decision to halt the process.

“The work of the Center … is too important to be led by an extremist,” council leadership wrote in a statement. “The next Center Director must be a unifying and not divisive figure.”