a water tower that says UC Davis in blue writing
(Photo/Flickr-UC Davis Arboretum & Public Garden CC BY-SA 2.0)

UC Davis investigates professor’s social post targeting ‘Zionist journalists’

A UC Davis professor whose macabre social media post appeared to encourage violence against “Zionist journalists” and their families is under investigation, according to the university.

“I absolutely condemn the posts attributed to a UC Davis faculty member that recently appeared on the social media platform X. I find the comments revolting in every way, and I disagree wholeheartedly with them,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary May said Thursday in a statement on the university’s website. “The provost will refer this matter to the appropriate campus departments that investigate harassment, discrimination and faculty conduct, in consultation with legal counsel regarding First Amendment rights.”

The incident comes as universities across North America continue to grapple with pitched debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supercharged since an Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas and a retaliatory bombing campaign in Gaza. In some instances, pro-Palestinian groups have been criticized for failing to condemn or for even commending as an act of “resistance” the incursion into Israel by Hamas, during which terrorists killed more than 1,400 people, including children, and took more than 200 hostages. 

UC Davis assistant professor Jemma Decristo’s X post — originally published three days after the Hamas attack — began to spread widely more than a week later after a Heritage Foundation research fellow reposted it Thursday on X. It had more than 4.8 million views by Friday afternoon. 

The post appeared to show Decristo calling for violence against journalists and their children. 

“One group of ppl we have easy access to in the US is all these zionist journalists who spread propaganda & misinformation,” the post said. 

“They have houses w addresses, kids in school. They can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more,” it continued. The words were followed by an emoji of a knife, an ax and three drops of blood.

Decristo didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to her UC Davis email address.

She remains employed by the university, the chancellor’s statement indicated. The University of California system “has specific procedures for the review of complaints of faculty misconduct” that the university is following, he said. 

It’s unclear whether Decristo is teaching in the current quarter, but she is scheduled to teach two courses during the winter quarter, which begins Jan. 5, according to an online course catalog of the Department of American Studies.

According to a now-deleted webpage on the university’s website, Decristo is an assistant professor of American studies and an undergraduate faculty adviser. Her research focuses “on the interplay between sound, race, gender, and embodiment,” the page stated.

According to California payroll records kept by the organization Transparent California, Decristo has been at the university since at least 2019, The Sacramento Bee reported. Last year, she earned over $110,000 in salary and benefits combined.

Decristo had in recent years taught an “undergraduate seminar in American studies,” according to student reviews published on the website Rate My Professor, as well as a course on “music and American culture.” The reviews, which are posted anonymously, are mixed.

“Jemma changed my view of the world and frankly changed my life for the better,” one person wrote on July 10. “She is a breath of fresh air with her more radical conversations and provocative readings.”

“I thought this class would be a fun class about music in American culture, however it was entirely about race (which is fine, I just wish I had known before),” another person wrote. “There is no room for any opinions outside of the professor’s,” the person added.

“One of the only radical professors on campus. If you’re sick of having capitalist rhetoric shoved down your throat, this is the class for you,” another person said.

In a statement emailed to J. on Friday, Hillel at Davis and Sacramento condemned what it called “violent and hate-filled views toward the Jewish community” expressed in the X post.

“The idea that anyone on our campus would threaten violence is frightening enough. That the threats were directed toward the Jewish community — including targeting Jewish ‘kids in school’ — just two weeks after the largest mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust is horrifying,” the statement said, referring to when the tweet became widely circulated rather than when it was originally published. 

Decristo’s X account was protected on Friday, meaning only her followers can view it. Her name no longer appears on the faculty page for the Department of American Studies, though it once did

“Jewish students and faculty members on our campus were already experiencing fear and grief in the wake of the slaughter by Hamas of more than 1,300 men, women, children, and babies in Israel on October 7,” the Hillel statement added. “That a member of the UC Davis community in a position of authority would threaten violence against the Jewish community less than two weeks later only serves to surface that trauma again and compound it.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.