California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter demanding the Suspension of Presidential Executive Order on Immigrants

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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We, California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** join thousands of colleagues across the nation to express our outrage against the Executive Order signed by Donald Trump establishing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of seven countries with a majority Muslim population. These countries are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/politics/donald-trump-refugees-executive-order/index.html. We demand the immediate suspension of this executive order because of its unconstitutionality and the serious impact it has on our academic institutions and communities.  This Executive Order is discriminatory as it targets a large group of immigrants on the basis of their country of origin and religious affiliation. This results in implementing racial and religious profiling in utter violation of the fundamental values and principles of the U.S. Constitution and of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

As members of private and public universities in California, we recognize that the implementation of this Executive Order is an attack on the academic freedom of our students and faculty colleagues whose right to leave or enter the country to pursue their studies and research will be curtailed. This measure not only violates our academic commitment to diversity, it severely impacts our faculty’s ability to do research, network, and attend conferences. It further forces our institutions to discriminate against student and faculty applicants from these countries.

The implementation of this Executive Order has already created undue hardship, disrupting the lives of many immigrants and their families in our communities. The claim that this measure is intended to secure our borders from potential “terrorists” is false and hypocritical. In addition, we need to point out that the executive order is, in fact, not intended to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” as Donald Trump claims, since the foreign-born individuals who have committed violent acts against the US since September 11, 2001, have come from countries that are not on the list of banned countries. Trump’s Executive Order is an ideological/ political/-economic/discriminatory act that lacks the humanitarian spirit of our Constitution, and will accomplish the opposite of protecting our country.

This Executive Order is a blow against ALL citizens’ rights to be protected from the arbitrary and illegal actions of the State, because an attack against one is an attack against all of us.

We join our academic colleagues across the U.S. (and the world) to demand that this order be revoked immediately.

 

Contact Persons on Behalf of CS4AF:

Sondra Hale, Research Professor and Professor Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles. Sonhale@ucla.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb, Professor of Communication Studies, CSU San Bernardino. amuhtase@csusb.edu

Lisa Rofel, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz. lrofel@ucsd.edu

Vida Samiian, Professor of Linguistics, California State University Fresno. vidas@csufresno.edu

**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.

February 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Fordham President about SJP on campus

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

Office of the President

441 East Fordham Road

Bronx, NY 10458

Dear Father McShane,

 

We are writing on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression.  We wish to express our grave concern over the decision to deny the application by Students for Justice in Palestine to be recognized as a student organization despite meeting all the requirements for recognition and receiving the approval of Fordham’s student government.

You should also beware that, as a recipient of federal funding, Fordham University is required, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, not to discriminate on the basis of the viewpoint of students’ message and/or their national origin. We agree with the findings by the Center for Constitutional Rights that “All evidence indicates that the denial was based on the viewpoint of students’ message and/or their national origin.” Your decision, therefore, is a violation of the students’ rights to free speech and association, the longstanding commitment to justice by Jesuit universities, and the spirit of an open university which protects free inquiry.

 

Over the decades, there have been hundreds of “Third World” solidarity groups on college and university campuses addressing conflicts not only in the Middle East, but in Southern Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. While some of these groups could have been seen by many as being somewhat rigid and ideological in their approach to these conflicts, they have played an important role in raising legitimate concerns about justice, particularly as it relates to U.S. foreign policy.  More fundamentally, however, they have every right to organize. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that such a group has been denied the right to organize a chapter on the campus of a Jesuit college or university and the first time that a chapter of Students of Justice in Palestine has been denied recognition at any college or university.

Indeed, there is more than a little irony in a Jesuit institution banning a student group with “Justice” in its name. A little over fifteen years ago, Professor Stephen Zunes, one of our board members, represented the University of San Francisco at a series of regional and national conferences on the role of justice in Jesuit higher education. One of the issues emphasized was the important role served by student groups addressing issues of justice in both the United States and around the world, even if not everyone agreed with their specific policy objectives or style of organizing.

Another ironic aspect is your claim that banning SJP was justified on the grounds that their support for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel “presents a barrier to open dialogue.” As I am sure you are aware, the Catholic Church has long supported such tactics, ranging from the boycott of lettuce and grapes in support of farmworkers to divestment and sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. More recently, a number of Catholic institutions and organizations—including the Canadian Jesuits—have divested from companies in the fossil fuel industry. Furthermore, a number of Catholic organizations, including the Conference of Majors Superiors of Men, have also divested from companies supporting the Israeli occupation and illegal settlements.

Regardless of Church history on such matters, banning a student organization in such a manner is a far greater “barrier to open dialogue” than their advocacy of the time-honored tradition of advocating sanctions against governments which violate international legal norms and boycotts and divestment from companies which support such violations.

Similarly troubling is your unfair stereotyping and characterization of pro-Palestinian activists as inherently antagonistic and malicious. As with supporters of the Israeli government, supporters of Palestinian rights vary considerably in their ideology and ways of expressing their views and it is grossly unfair to assume the worst of either.

Yet another disturbing aspect of the Fordham University’s decision is the rationalization that such a group would be “polarizing.” There are countless student organizations in both Jesuit and other institutions that address issues that are considered by many to be “polarizing,” virtually none of which have ever been banned under such a rationale. Indeed, many of key struggles of recent decades—opposition to segregation, the Vietnam War, South African apartheid, the nuclear arms race, U.S. intervention in Central America, Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, sweatshops and other economic exploitation—were considered “polarizing” at the time.

The right of students to organize events addressing the Israeli occupation is just as important as the right to organize against occupations by Indonesia, Morocco, Russia, or any other country, regardless of individuals or organizations who may disapprove.

With the inauguration in Washington of a president whose commitment to civil liberties is highly questionable, it is particularly important for educational institutions to protect the free speech of their students, especially those who take politically unpopular positions and identify as members of marginalized groups.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom therefore urges you to recognize Students for Justice in Palestine as a legitimate student organization, apologize to the students impacted by your year-long delay and eventual refusal in doing so, and reaffirm Fordham University’s commitment to academic freedom and to students’ rights to free speech and association.

Contact persons:

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies

University of San Francisco   email: zunes@usfca.edu       415-422-6981

Katherine King, Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Classics

University of California Los Angeles  email: king@humnet.ucla.edu

**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.

February 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Zwischenzeit Editorial Board re William I. Robinson

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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January 23, 2017

To:  Zwischenzeit Editorial Board

From: California Scholars for Academic Freedom

We write on behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** to express deep concern over what appears to be your editorial board’s violation of the free speech rights of Professor William I. Robinson.

Professor Robinson has made available to us his ongoing correspondence with Zwischenzeit editor Dennis Firmansyah from November 14 of 2016 to January 5 of 2017.  According to this correspondence, on November 14, Mr. Firmansyah contacted Professor Robinson on behalf of the Zwischenzeit editorial board to request an interview on the topic of the election of Donald Trump and its wider international implications.  Professor Robinson agreed to proceed with the interview and received a list of interview questions from Mr. Firmansyah on November 15, which he answered and submitted to Zwischenzeit on December 4.  On December 6, Mr. Firmansyah wrote to Professor Robinson acknowledging receipt of the interview and confirming it would be translated into German and published the following week.

The interview, however, had still not been published by the end of December.  In response to Professor Robinson’s December 29 query regarding the delay in publication, Mr. Firmansyah stated in a January 2 email letter that Zwischenzeit had declined to publish the interview.  While the editorial decisions of media outlets would not in themselves concern California Scholars for Academic Freedom, in this instance it appears that the decision not to publish the interview with Professor Robinson was based solely on his scholarship and political views as expressed elsewhere and not in the interview itself.

Mr. Firmansyah stated in his January 2 email letter to Professor Robinson that Zwischenzeit decided not to publish the interview because in it Professor Robinson references Israeli settlements in Palestine and uses the settlements as an example of 21st century fascism and of “the creation of green zones.”  Mr. Firmansyah goes on to state in his letter that the interview would not be published because “it is highly controversial to mention concentration camps in the same paragraph of a text with Israeli settlements and Israeli apartheid.”

We have examined the interview that you conducted with Professor Robinson and we can find no mention whatsoever of green zones or concentration camps in Israel or of Israeli apartheid.  It would appear that Mr. Firmansyah, justified the decision to censor Professor Robinson based on writings that Professor Robinson has published elsewhere.  It suggests that subsequent to the interview the Zwischenzeit editorial board researched Professor Robinson’s scholarly publications which are readily available on-line, some of which make reference to Israeli apartheid, the occupation of Palestinian territory, and what he refers to as “green zones” in the occupied territories.  But these matters are not the subject of the interview and are never mentioned in the interview.

The implication here is that you have blacklisted Professor Robinson because of his views on Israel/Palestine independent of, and unrelated to, the interview that you conducted with him.  In reviewing the explanation you provided to Professor Robinson for censoring him we can find no other explanation as to why you would refuse to publish the interview after you requested it of him.  We are particularly concerned because the matter goes beyond free speech.  If your justification for failing to publish the interview is Professor Robinson’s views on Israel/Palestine as expressed elsewhere then you are, in effect, silencing him because of his political views.

We believe that Zwischenzeit’s decision to silence Professor Robinson violates the magazine’s own mission statement.  You state on your website, “Just as we do not understand ourselves as the mouthpiece of any political organization or person, we try to connect and generate discussion with each other over a broad range of opinions among those who suffer from society.  Above all we always try to listen to all those who participate in society’s happenings and to include them in our reporting.” It would thus appear that the editorial board’s refusal to publish Professor Robinson’s solicited interview is self-censorship, a bowing to efforts to stop criticism of the Israeli government.

 

Was it fear of criticism that prompted your refusal to publish? Was the board’s consciousness that it lacked the courage of its convictions responsible for your discourteous failure to notify Professor Robinson of its change of mind?

As scholars devoted to the full enjoyment of academic freedom and to the free speech rights of its members, and of all members of the university community, we call on Zwischenzeit to rescind its decision to censor Professor Robinson and to publish the interview that you requested of him.

Contact Persons:

Manzar Foroohar, Professor of History, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. maforooha@calpoly.edu

Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles. sonhale@ucla.edu

Vida Samiian, Professor of Linguistics & Dean Emerita, CSU Fresno. vidas@csufresno.edu

Lisa Rofel, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz. lrofel@usc.edu

 

**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.

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment