On Sunday evening, news broke that John Galliano would teach a 3-day master-class series at Parsons, The New School for Design. It appeared to be another layer in the designer’s mounting comeback, one which he’s been working towards since shortly after a 2011 video of his anti-Semitic remarks had him fired from the helm of Dior. There was an overall positivity surrounding the Parsons news. But judging from a petition filed on Change.org, not everyone is happy about Galliano’s latest achievement.
The author of the petition is anonymous, so it’s uncertain if it was written by a member of the Parsons student body. Regardless, its author felt compelled to speak on students’ behalf. “Hiring someone who has made such horrific comments shows that the school values Galliano over their entire Jewish community,” the petition reads. “It shows they value him over their students’ respect, peace of mind, and heritage. It is disgraceful to hire someone who has made such inhumane comments.”
Speaking more personally in relation to Parsons, the author continued: “We do not want money from our tuition going to this kind of person. We feel like we’ve been slapped in the face by our school.” The petition has accrued 413 signatures so far, as well as multiple comments of support.
A spokesperson for Parsons refused comment on the petition to The Daily Beast, but reiterated the school’s original comments pertaining to Galliano’s appointment. "The planned master class with John Galliano will be a dynamic and intimate opportunity for our students to learn from an immensely talented designer,” the school said as part of a statement issued on Monday. “We believe that over the past two years Galliano has demonstrated a serious intent to make amends for his past actions, and as part of this workshop, Parsons students will have the opportunity to engage in a frank conversation with Mr. Galliano about the challenges and complications of leading a design house in the 21st century.”
On Friday, the Anti-Defamation League (a fierce champion of Galliano’s recovery) voiced its opinions on the petition to The Daily Beast. “It’s sad, it’s misplaced, it’s ignorant, and vindictive,” the organization’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said of the petition. “If it’s done in the name of the Jewish community it’s a total aberration of what Judaism is about. It’s a religion that teaches forgiveness.”
He continued: “If [the petition] is anonymous, it’s even worse. If you believe in something, then stand up for it. If not, then move on.”
This being the age of the Internet, what seems to be most haunting in Galliano’s road to redemption is the YouTube video chronicling his fated rant at Paris’s La Perle café. The video was embedded in online publication DIS magazine’s coverage of Galliano’s academic hiring. It’s also prominently included in the Change.org petition.
The author of the petition added: “Imagine if the school were hiring a person who publicly voiced support for the KKK—there would likely be backlash because it’s not right to have someone like that teaching at a school. But because this is someone who has made anti-Semitic remarks, people are willing to look the other way.”
Foxman finds these claims unmerited. “If someone publicly voiced alignment for the KKK and then publicly apologized and made strides to amend,” he said, “I think the same thing would apply.”