Carlos Cortez
Chancellor Carlos O. Cortez. SDCCD photo

Carlos O. Cortez, the new chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, announced Monday the cancellation of his investiture ceremony over criticism of the keynote speaker.

The free, public event with a keynote speech by author Alice Walker was scheduled to be held May 31 at Petco Park.

Walker, who received the Pulitizer Prize in 1983 for her acclaimed novel “The Color Purple,” has been accused of taking antisemitic positions in recent years.

“Over the past few weeks, concerns have been expressed about the political beliefs and writings of the investiture keynote speaker, Alice Walker. At the same time, others have expressed their support of Ms. Walker,” Cortez said in a statement.

“As a district that celebrates inclusion, we believe the best way forward would be to cancel the event altogether. I apologize for the pain caused to any member of our community. The investiture scheduled for May 31 will not be held,” he said.

In 2018, Walker said in an interview with The New York Times that she is a fan of conspiracy theorist David Icke whose writings have antisemitic themes. Her own recent poem “To Study the Talmud” has been criticized as antisemitic. Walker, whose first husband was Jewish, denies that she is antisemitic.

Last September, the union representing the district’s teachers approved a resolution condemning Israel and questioning the Jewish state’s right to exist. Union leaders denied that the resolution was antisemitic.

San Diego college district is one of the largest in California with 100,000 students at City, Mesa and Miramar colleges and the district’s continuing education program.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.