Letter to UCSC Chancellor Larive re: UCSC graduate student strike and "notification of class and section disruption" form



February 13, 2020

Dear Chancellor Larive and Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Kletzer,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of over two hundred scholars throughout California, write with grave concern about the Google form “Notification of Class and Section Disruption” sent on February 7, 2020 to UCSC undergraduates in relation to the graduate student strike demanding a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).  This form asks students to surveil and report on conversations occurring in the course of instruction.  It sets a dangerous precedent of surveillance that undermines the core principles of academic freedom. 

The university produces knowledge and practice critical to the operations of a democracy. The ideal of academic freedom is at the core of the university in a democratic society. 

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of education in a free society. Its definition includes such items as what are called ‘the four essential freedoms’ of a university, to determine, on academic grounds, who will teach, what they may teach, how they teach and who may study. 

Academic freedom requires that faculty and students can participate in intellectual debate free of any censorship or retaliation. Central to academic freedom is that the political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of others, including politicians, administrators and members of the public shall not be imposed on students or faculty. 

California Scholars for Academic Freedom call on you rescind the link to the Google form and refuse to use any data collected through that mechanism as the grounds for disciplinary measures against faculty and students.

On behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

Susan Slyomovics

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures


Walid Afifi

University of California – Santa Barbara

Professor, Dept of Communication

Director, Center for Middle East Studies

Craig Reinarman

Professor Emeritus of Sociology & Legal Studies

Rachel Carson College 338

University of California

Santa Cruz, CA 95064


Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita

Anthropology and Gender Studies, UCLA. sonhale@ucla.edu

Letter to NYU President Andrew D. Hamilton re: DOE OCR investigation in response to a claim that NYU had “discriminated against students of Jewish descent. . .”

February 2, 2020

Dr. Andrew D. Hamilton
President, New York University

Dear President Hamilton:

We write on behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom with regard to the investigation of New York University launched in November 2019 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). * The OCR initiated this investigation under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in response to a complaint it had received in April 2019. That complaint, which the OCR deemed “appropriate for investigation,” alleged that (as the OCR’s letter put it) NYU had “discriminated against students of Jewish descent on the basis of national origin by failing to respond appropriately to incidents that created a hostile environment for Jewish students at the University.”

California Scholars for Academic Freedom is committed to fighting all forms of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. We believe that this investigation however constitutes a politically motivated attack on academic freedom and on the constitutionally protected right of free speech. As such, it violates the First Amendment rights of NYU students, faculty and staff.

This case began when one self-identified “pro-Israel” activist alleged that NYU had long tolerated and fostered “extreme anti-Semitism” on its campus, denying Jewish students “their rights under the law to an environment on campus free of hostility created by anti-Semitism.” This student alleged that a recognized NYU student organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), caused Jewish and pro-Israel students to feel unwelcome and unsafe.” The student described the SJP as “an avowed anti-Semitic organization with known terrorist connections.” In April 2019, however, SJP was awarded NYU’s President’s Service Award, which honors students and student organizations for contributing to the NYU community through community service and civic engagement or student leadership and campus programming. The alleged anti-Semitism cited in the complaint amounts only to members of SJP expressing their support for Palestinian rights and their opposition to Israeli actions and policies that violate those rights. 

California Scholars for Academic Freedom firmly believe that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights is not tantamount to anti-Semitism. Indeed, labeling it in this fashion will make it nearly impossible to teach, research or even to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on university campuses. Such a situation undermines the academic freedom that is vital to higher education. It also may divert attention and resources from efforts to combat real anti-Semitism.

The timing of the NYU investigation appears connected to the appointment of Kenneth Marcus. Over the objections of many academic and human rights organizations, he was confirmed in June 2018 as the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. With a long record of pressuring universities to suppress open discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Marcus has tried to silence faculty and students who express criticism of Israeli policies or advocate for Palestinian rights.  His campaign against free-speech and academic freedom helped pave the way for President Trump’s Executive Order of 11 December 2019, which states that “discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin.” The Executive Order holds that all Jews share a common national origin embodied in the state of Israel. Far from a statement of fact, this claim by supporters of Israel is an ideological canard, aimed to suppress meaningful criticism of Israel. It violates the basic principles of academic freedom and free speech. 

We call on you, President Hamilton, and on NYU’s leadership as a whole, to respond to this investigation. We urge you to reaffirm your commitment to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, but also to reject any efforts to utilize allegations of anti-Semitism in order to advance a political agenda. We encourage you to take a clear public stand that all political speech, including criticism of any government or ideology and advocacy for the rights of a repressed group, must remain free, as specified in the constitution. Finally, we call on you to ensure that NYU rigorously adheres to the standards and traditions of academic freedom, including freedom from the threat of politically motivated intimidation and harassment by government agencies.

We look forward to your response.


Edmund Burke

Professor Emerita of History

University of California, Santa Cruz


Richard Falk

Professor Emeritus of International Law



Margaret Ferguson

Distinguished Professor Emerita

University of California, Davis


Nancy Gallagher

Professor Emerita of History

University of California, Santa Barbara


Ruth Goldstein

Assistant Professor of Global and International Studies

University of Southern California


Larry Gross

Professor of Communication

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

University of Southern California


Howard Winant

Distinguished Professor of Sociology

University of California, Santa Barbara


Letter to Israeli President Netanyahu re Professor Widad Barghouti’s Administrative Detention Without Cause or Recourse to Due Process (originally published in Mondoweiss)



September 13, 2019

To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Justic Ayalet Shaked, and Minister of Higher Education Fafi Peretz:

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom*, a group of over 200 academics working in higher education in California, write to condemn in the strongest terms the brutal invasion of the home of Professor Widad Barghouti and her subsequent detention without cause on September 1, 2019.  Professor Barghouti, who teaches communications and media at Birzeit University, has been put under administrative detention subject to interrogations without cause and without recourse to due process.  

Administrative detention, which can be imposed without charges and be indefinitely and arbitrarily extended, is a form of legal violence imposed by the Israeli State on Palestinian society and, in this instance, on a respected educator as well as members of her family. Palestinian faculty and students alike have a right to education, a right that is systematically undermined by harassment and administrative detention. 

We call for the immediate release of Professor Widad Barghouti. We call for an end to the unjust practices of harassment and administrative detention that are aimed at denying Palestinians their right to education. Educators and intellectuals should be free to express their views and pursue their profession without obstruction or harassment. We call for an end to this continued suppression of Palestinian society.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons

Professor Judith Butler,

Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature,

Department of Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley USA


Professor Emeritus Lisa Rofel,

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz  USA

Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom


Professor Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

University of California, Santa Barbara USA

Professor Vida Samiian

Professor and Dean Emerita

California State University, Fresno  USA


* California Scholars for Academic Freedom is a group of scholars committed to academic freedom and rights to education of faculty and students not only in California and the United States but internationally as well. 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.​​


Birzeit University President Abdullatif Abuhijleh

Birzeit University Union of Teachers and Employees (snawad@birzeit.edu)

Birzeit University Department of Media (Chair.MediaD@birzeit.edu)