California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to President Oliver and Dean Boyle at Pitzer College in Support of Dr. Daniel Regal and Pitzer College Students who Sponsored the Motion to Suspend the Study Abroad Program at the University of Haifa, Israel.

  CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

image.jpgimage-2.jpghttps://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com 

April 8, 2019

Melvin Oliver, President, Pitzer College

Nigel Boyle, Dean of the Faculty, Pitzer College

Dear President Oliver and Dean Boyle:

We write as representatives of California Scholars for Academic Freedom*, a group of over two hundred academics and intellectuals with a commitment to defend academic freedom and first amendment rights of faculty and students who teach and do research in California’s institutions of higher education. We write in support of Dr. Daniel Segal, Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History, and also the Pitzer College students who have sponsored the motion to suspend the College’s study abroad program at the University of Haifa. This motion was supported by a strong majority of the most representative Pitzer campus body, composed of students, faculty, and staff.

We have learned recently that in the weeks preceding the March 14 vote of the Pitzer College Council, Professor Segal and student supporters of the motion were the target of multiple attack campaigns. One of these took the form of a FaceBook meme with a photo of Dr. Segal labeled “creepy Dan” and accusing him of being “anti-Semitic.” That meme causes great concern, both for its libelous labeling and for its conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Posters also appeared on campus with an image of masked “terrorists” and text insinuating that Pitzer would be supporting Hamas if they voted in favor of the motion. Those posters are of great concern because they employ tropes of hatred against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians and potentially expose students from those backgrounds to a heightened risk of violence. Evidently, on Friday, April 5, a group of outsiders came onto the Pitzer campus and distributed postcards depicting Professor Segal’s photo in a red circle with a red line through his face, calling him an anti-Semite. This sort of material poses real danger, for it encourages direct, violent targeting of Professor Segal. 

These and other incidents of vile and inflammatory postering and doxing aim to silence voices on campus concerned with Palestinian rights. We find it deeply troubling that neither the President nor the Dean of the Faculty of Pitzer College responded to these speech acts in order to counter them. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that academic freedom and freedom of expression continue to thrive at your prestigious institution, as the Pitzer community continues to take up Palestinian rights in debate, motions, and votes. 

Contact persons on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom:

Lisa Rofel,

Professor Emeritus

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Vida Samiian

Professor Emeritus of Linguistics

California State University, Fresno

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

vidas@mail.fresnostate.edu

Nancy Gallagher

Professor Emerita of History

University of California, Santa Barbara

Gallagher@ucsb.edu

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, 

Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, 

San Francisco State University

Ria55@sfsu.edu

David Palumbo-Liu,

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, and Professor of Comparative Literature

Stanford University.

palumbo-liu@stanford.edu

CC: Claudia Strauss, Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee (Claudia_Strauss@pitzer.edu)

       Mike Segwa, Vice President of Student Affairs (Mike_Segwa@pitzer.edu)

Harold Brown, Chair of the Board of Trustees (via Secretary Melanie_Lacy@Pitzer.Edu)

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) defends academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

Advertisements

April 14, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to West Hollywood City Council re: change in rule to require city council approval of all pubic events

  CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

image.jpgimage-2.jpghttps://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com 

April 1, 2019

City Council Members

West Hollywood

Dear West Hollywood City Council:

We write as representatives of California Scholars for Academic Freedom*, a group of over two hundred academics and intellectuals with a commitment to defend academic freedom and first amendment rights of faculty and students who teach and do research in California’s institutions of higher education. This includes their free speech rights in venues beyond the academy.

We understand that a proposal to require city council approval for all future events aims to censor (again) the screening of 1948: Creation and Catastrophe, a well-researched film based on sound historical scholarship. Directed by Professor Muhtaseb, an expert in media and communication studies, the documentary has been shown at many national and international events, and was nominated for an Al Ard XV Film Festival Award in Italy. 

A rule that seems neutral on its face can have discriminatory intent. To require the city council to approve future events will lead West Hollywood down the road of government interference and censorship in what should be a realm of free speech and free expression. 

 It appears that several Zionists have been lobbying you to adopt this proposal.  We urge you to stand firm and respect the right of  West Hollywood residents to see the film and decide for themselves.  If the documentary leads to debate, this is a healthy sign of a democratic system at work.  

On behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

Lisa Rofel,

Professor Emeritus

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Vida Samiian

Professor Emeritus of Linguistics

California State University, Fresno

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

vidas@mail.fresnostate.edu

Sang Hea Kil

Associate Professor

“Justice” Studies Department

San José State University

sangheakil@gmail.com

Nancy Gallagher

Professor Emerita of History

University of California, Santa Barbara

Gallagher@ucsb.edu

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, 

Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, 

San Francisco State University

Ria55@sfsu.edu

Professor Shahla Razavi,

Associate Professor, Mathematics

Mt. San Jacinto College

Srazavi2004@yahoo.com

Professor David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor and Chair
Department of English
University of California
Riverside

dclloyd@ucr.edu

 

Dennis Kortheuer

Lecturer Emeritus, History

California State University, Long Beach

dennis.kortheuer@csulb.edu

 

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) defends academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

April 1, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, re sentencing of Professor Ustel for signing the 2016 Peace Petition

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

President of the Republic of Turkey

T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği

06689 Çankaya, Ankara

Turkey

Fax: +90 312 470 13 16

receptayyip.erdogan@basbakanlik.gov.tr

Dear President Erdoğan:

California Scholars for Academic Freedom* representing over two hundred faculty at California universities, expresses profound dismay that the İstanbul Regional Appeals Court has upheld the 15-month prison sentence of Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel. Professer Üstel is one of over two thousand signatories of the Peace Petition in 2016 calling on the Turkish government to halt military operations in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of the country. A prominent retired political scientist from Galatasaray University, Professor Üstel works in the area of cultural studies, citizenship and national identity, and has been an important defender of academic freedoms in Turkey.

Denying the charges of “aiding terrorism” and rejecting the courts’ offer of deferred sentence (known in Turkish as the HAGB), Professor Üstel was sentenced to 15 months in jail on April 4, 2018 by the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court. Her sole “crime” is that she signed a petition that requested the Turkish government to return to the peace process of 2013-15, to resume the negotiations with Kurdish leaders, and to end the destruction in Kurdish provinces caused by the return of armed conflict between the Turkish military and PKK guerillas. By upholding her sentence on March 1, 2019, the Court of Appeals might set a dangerous precedent for the other 27 signatory academics whose appeal cases are ongoing1.

We urge that Professor Üstel’s prison sentence be annulled, and that the Court dismiss all charges against the Academics for Peace who signed this petition. We believe that persecuting scholars who exercise their academic freedom to voice their opinion on public matters of importance violates freedom of thought, expression and assembly that Turkey made a commitment to protect as a member state of the Council of Europe and as a signatory of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Turkey is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), all of which protect freedom of expression and association, which lie at the heart of academic freedom. These rights are also enshrined in articles 25-27 of the Turkish Constitution. We urge your government to take all necessary steps to ensure that these rights are protected.

We also express our concern regarding the disparities in the prison sentences handed down to the Academics for Peace scholars, all of whom have been served the same indictment. Out of the 137 court cases that were concluded, 100 academics were sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison, while a number of academics were given up to three years of prison sentences for arbitrary reasons such as ‘not showing remorse’ during the trials.

This was the case of Professor Gençay Gürsoy, a retired professor of medicine from İstanbul University and a founding member of Human Rights Foundation in Turkey. On December 11, 2018, Professor Gürsoy received a 26-month prison sentence based on the court statement that he continued to promote the petition via press interviews and via social media2. He was not given the opportunity to comment on the press interview and his social media posts, nor was he told that other documents were added to his case file prior to his court appearance3.

Similarly, On 19 December 2018, Professor Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, also a professor of medicine at İstanbul University and President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, received a thirty-month prison sentence. In her case, as with Professor Gürsoy, information related to her human rights work, including interviews and a report on human rights violations in the town of Cizre, was added “after the fact” as criminal evidence against her in the case4.

On 24 January 2019, Istanbul’s 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Dr. Yonca Demir to three years in prison, the longest prison sentence given in the Academics for Peace trials to date. The Court refused to reduce her sentence on the grounds of her negative behavior during the hearings and prevented Demir’s attorney Meriç Eyüboğlu from concluding her defense. When the attorney contested, the presiding judge ordered the attorney out of the court hall.5

The indictments served on these signatory academics include troubling inconsistencies and a serious lack of credible evidence. Most importantly, they contradict speech freedoms guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution, a position argued by Constitutional Law experts in Turkey. The duration of the prison sentences that the academics receive, and the changing nature of what constitutes a “crime,” (such as tweets, reports, and press interviews) has exacerbated the sense of arbitrariness in the criminal proceedings against them. Despite the guarantees in the Turkish Constitution of judiciary autonomy, credible reports6 since 2010 document the increased control by the Turkish government over the judiciary and a direct challenge to their independence.

We believe that Academics for Peace scholars who signed the petition have been targeted unjustly by your government and by certain state institutions, including the universities that dismissed them and the courts that are sentencing them now. These actions provide a disturbing indication of the degree to which restrictions on academic freedom have become a matter of state policy in Turkey. It appears to us, and to many across the globe, that the trials against the Academics for Pease signatories serve as a mechanism to silence free speech and to eliminate dissenting voices of academics and intellectuals.

We urge your government to restore protections of academic freedom and the rights of the Academics for Peace that have been violated. If these academics’ sentences are carried out, we at California Scholars for Academic Freedom will consider recommending that our colleagues, university administration, unions and academic associations suspend future collaboration with the institutions of the Turkish higher education system.

1  https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/206037-court-of-appeal-upholds-first-prison-sentence-of-an- academic-for-peace

2  https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/203433-prof-dr-gencay-gursoy-sentenced-to-2-years-3-months- in-prison

3  https://bianet.org/bianet/insan-haklari/203438gencay-gursoyun-karar-durusmasinda-yasananlar

4  https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/turkey-sebnem-korur-fincanci-from-hrfp-sentenced-to-2-5- years-in

5  https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/204814-3-year-prison-sentence-not-deferred-we-gave-a-2-year- sentence-then-increased-it-to-3-years

6  http://www.barhumanrights.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/BHRC-IBAHRI-LSEW-Joint-Submission- Turkey-FINAL-no-letter.pdf

Contact persons: Sang Hea Kil

Associate Professor

“Justice” Studies Department

San José State University

Dennis Kortheuer

Lecturer Emeritus History

California State University Long Beach

Nancy Gallagher

Professor Emerita of History

University of California, Santa Barbara

Lisa Rofel

Professor Emerita of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

Cc Prof. Dr. Mustafa Şentop, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Başkanı (President of the Turkish National Assembly

Abdülhamit Gül, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Adalet Bakanı (Justice Minister of the Republic of Turkey

Yekta Saraç, Türkiye Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK) Başkanı (President of the Turkish Higher Education Council

Pier Antonio Panzeri, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights

Cristian Dan Preda, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights

Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Kati Piri, Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament

Michelle Bachelet Jeria, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Koumbou Boly Barry, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment