CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
April 25, 2016
Dear President Napolitano and the Chancellors of the University of California:
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of over 200 faculty, strongly object to your attempts to interfere in the academic freedom of the 10,000 members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as they vote on whether to ratify a resolution calling on the AAA to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
Whether or not an academic boycott is an appropriate response to concerns over Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, it is not the place of university administrators to weigh in on positions taken by academic associations. Nor is it the place of university presidents and chancellors to interfere in the voting procedures by which professional scholarly associations decide on their mandates. Your uncalled for interference is also likely to be perceived as an act of intimidation by both anthropologists who already work in the UC system and those who might be interested in joining our faculty in the future.
In addition, we strongly object to your failure to consult with your respective faculty Senates on the wisdom of sending this letter. Rather than acting unilaterally, failing to honor the tradition of shared governance in the UC system, and interfering with scholarly associations, you should be affirming the academic freedom of scholars in the UC system, in the United States more generally, and elsewhere to engage in political statements and actions. Such political actions and statements may include boycotts, which are a time-honored, effective, and legitimate form of political speech and action.
Your letter speaks in defense of academic freedom. This is precisely what the AAA is engaged in: asserting the right and academic freedom of its members to vote on a proposal for the Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, in response to their involvement in Israeli state violations of Palestinian human and civil rights, as well as restriction of Palestinian scholars’ and students’ academic freedom.
Anthropology is a profession that focuses on international issues, including how global inequalities affect the lives of marginalized peoples. The AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states: “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation.” Indeed, the AAA membership has endorsed numerous resolutions in defense of those rights, and the Association has a long record of taking stances against human rights abuses and has engaged in previous boycotts.
Prior to this vote, the AAA engaged in a three-year democratic process which included panels and conference discussions as well as a major Association Task Force investigation and peer-reviewed report. Furthermore, the vote is taking place in accordance with the Association’s bylaws and procedures. You should not be attempting to stifle this vote, the AAA process, and the voices of the AAA membership.
As leaders of our academic institutions, you have a responsibility to protect scholars’ rights to academic freedom and political action, including their right to vote for this resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,
Professor Nancy Gallagher
University of California, Santa Barbara
Professor Susan Slyomovics
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor Baki Tezcan,
University of California, Davis
Cc: Cc: Chancellor Howard Gillman, UC Irvine
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, UC Riverside
Chancellor Henry T. Yang UC Santa Barbara
Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks, UC Berkeley
Chancellor Gene Block, UC Los Angeles
Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego
Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, UC Santa Cruz
Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis
Chancellor Dorothy Leland, UC Merced
Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC San Francisco
*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of 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.*
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC
Los Angeles, April 8, 2016
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
Office of the Prime Minister
Via facsimile +90 312 417 0476
• Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanı (President of the Republic of
Turkey) Fax +90 312 525 58 31
#• İsmail Kahraman, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Başkanı (President of the Turkish National
Assembly) Fax +90 312 420 51 65
#• Bekir Bozdağ, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Adalet Bakanı (Justice Minister of the Republic of
Turkey) Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70
• Yekta Saraç, Türkiye Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK) Başkanı (President of the Turkish Higher
Education Council) Email: email@example.com
• Serdar Kılıç, Turkish Ambassador to the United States
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax:+1 202 612 67 44
#• John R. Bass, United States Ambassador to Turkey Fax: (90-312) 467-0019
Dear Prime Minister Davutoğlu:
California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* an organization devoted to defending academic
freedom and representing more than one hundred and fifty faculty at universities throughout
California, wishes to express its concern for the second time over the disciplinary investigations,
detentions and criminal prosecutions that have been undertaken against scholars who signed a
petition for peace in the Kurdish regions of the country (“Peace Petition”). In our previous letter
on this matter, dated January 19, 2016, we raised concerns regarding the immediate aftermath of
a government-orchestrated campaign of intimidation following President Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan’s speech defining the signatories of the Peace Petition as “traitors,” and the memo
issued by the Higher Education Council’s (YÖK) calling for disciplinary investigations and
punitive measures against signatory faculty.
We now write in response to the alarming news about the treatment of signatory academics and
the worsening violations of academic freedom by the administrators of several Turkish
Universities and by the State. According to reputable sources, as of March 24, and since January
11, 2016, 531 academics have been subjected to administrative investigations; 5 were forced to
resign and 1 to retire; 29 have been suspended from their positions and 38 have already been
fired. Moreover, 158 academics have undergone criminal investigations, and 34 of them have
been temporarily detained. On March 14, then, professors Esra Mungan of Bogazici University,
Kıvanç Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar University, and Muzaffer Kaya of Nişantaşı
University were arrested on charges of supporting terrorism, and are currently being detained
without bail for having held a public meeting on March 10 to inform the public of the
intimidations, unlawful investigations, and dismissals suffered by signatories of the Peace
Petition. A fourth organizer of that meeting, Prof. Meral Camcı (removed from office at İstanbul
Yeni Yüzyıl University) was also charged of supporting terrorism, but was able to avoid arrest
for she was out of the country. She was arrested upon her return to Turkey on March 31. Lastly,
a fifth academic and UK citizen, Prof. Chris Stephenson of Bilgi University, was arrested and
taken to Kumkapı Repatriation Center for holding a vigil outside the court in support of the three
academics arrested on March 14, and for carrying a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) invitation from
a lawful political party in the parliament–the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).1
In addition to the blatant disregard for the academic freedom and civil rights of the above
mentioned professors, we are deeply concerned with the Turkish government’s efforts to
“expand the definition of terrorism” to any speech, research, writing, opinion, organizing or
demonstration critical of government actions against minorities, as well as of the new
amendments proposed this week to the Higher Education Law, which would make it impossible
for any academic to do any work critical of government policies. According to the new draft of
the bill, any academic that gets “involved with separatist claims or terror activities or with
ideological or political actions, or supporting such actions” would be dismissed from
universities, and lose his or her title. In particular, crimes of political involvement would include
the drafting or signing of “petitions.” The draft bill proposes the punishment of job loss for
academics involved not only with political activities, but also with activities such as boycott,
occupation, slowdown strike, strike, and stopping public works that would disturb institutional
tranquility, peace and work atmosphere.
The magnitude of and escalation in violation of academic freedom, harassment, intimidation,
prosecution and repression to which academics in Turkey have been subjected as a consequence
of signing the Peace Petition is unlike anything we have witnessed as California Scholars for
Academic Freedom. We are gravely concerned that a country like Turkey, which has not only
made promises to protect democracy and human rights both domestically and internationally, but
has made great strides in implementing those principles, now attempts to crush not merely
academic freedoms, but the very right of citizens to criticize their government. Repressing
specifically the critical voices of so many academics by such blatantly unlawful means can only
1 (March, 25, 2016). Freedom Watch in Front of 2 Prisons for 3 Academics. Bianet.
(March 16, 2016). Turkey: Academics Jailed For Signing Petition. Human Rights Watch.
(March 16, 2016). British academic deported from Turkey over ‘terror propaganda’ claim. The Indedependent
(March 31, 2016). Update: Vacationing Turkish scholar arrested after her return. Science.
yield negative consequences for Turkish academia in particular, and freedom of speech in
general. The equation of dissenting views with terrorism, and the plans for expanding the
definition of terrorism to include dissemination of research findings, ideas, news, etc. that can be
associated with aiding the activities of terrorists are unacceptable developments that could cause
the incarceration of not only a great number of academics, but also journalists and NGO
advocates if the Turkish government does not put a stop to these developments.
The Turkish Constitution safeguards freedom of thought and opinion and specifically states that
no one shall “be blamed or accused on account of his thoughts and opinions” (Article 25). It also
states that everyone “has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion by
speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively” (Article
26). Further, it protects academic freedom in Article 27: “Everyone has the right to study and
teach freely, explain, and disseminate science and arts and to carry out research in these fields.”
As a member state of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Turkey is required to protect freedom
of thought, expression and assembly. 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 the rights to
freedom of expression and association, which are at the heart of academic freedom. Therefore we
urge your government to take all necessary steps to abandon the course currently being pursued
and to return to earlier practices in line with ensuring that these rights are protected.2
We respectfully ask that your government take immediate steps to drop all charges against
Professors Mungan, Ersoy, and Kaya, and release them from detention. That it also drop all
charges against Professor Camcı, and ensure that all of the investigations – administrative and
criminal – against the signatory academics of the Peace Petition be terminated or reversed.
Lastly, we also ask that your government immediately drop consideration of any proposal to
amend the criminal laws to broaden the definition of terrorism to encompass the lawful and
protected activities of academics, journalists and NGO advocates, and refuse any amendments to
Higher Education Law that will stifle even further human rights, academic freedom, freedom of
expression and freedom of association in Turkey.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your positive response.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Nancy Gallagher Claudio Fogu
University of California Santa Barbara University of California Santa Barbara
2 Tartanoğlu, S. (March 23, 2016). İntikam torbası açıldı. Cumhuriyet.
**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of well over 100
academics who teach in 20 California institutions. The group formed as a response to various
violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil
rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many
attacks have been aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars
researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities. Our goal of
protecting California Scholars based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown
broader in scope to include threats to academic freedom across the United States, and where
relevant, globally as well. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are
threats to academic freedom everywhere.
Further information on CS4AF: https://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/author/cs4af/
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Our civil liberties are being violated in the name of security again! The effect is to stir hate and fear. Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, we have seen a dramatic and disturbing increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment in the United States. California Scholars for Academic Freedom is particularly concerned that Islamophobia is manifesting itself in ways that threaten the academic freedom and civil liberties of researchers, teachers, and students. These include physical threats, censorship, and termination of employment. Many of these cases involve no more than teaching basic cultural and historical information about the Middle East.
Teachers who teach this basic subject matter are often either accused of being terrorist sympathizers or, in the most egregious cases, accused of being terrorists themselves. Police are called to arrest Muslim and Arab American students for “suspicious-looking” backpacks. Schools in Augusta County, Virginia, were closed after an Arabic calligraphy lesson prompted a disturbing anti-Muslim backlash. A Philadelphia Sunday Sun December 19 article documents the daily physical and verbal abuses and harassments Muslim children have to endure in schools across the nation. Attacks against Muslims have tripled since the Paris attacks, reaching levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. All of this serves to punish those whose points of view are deemed dangerous. This “danger” more often than not is a grossly distorted mis-representation of ordinary lessons in history and culture.
At the college-level, Islamophobia is manifested in threats to defund centers for Middle East studies if they appear to be advocating a particular point of view. Frivolous lawsuits are filed to intimidate administrations, faculty, and students. One of the most common targets for such actions are scholars and students who voice criticism of Israeli state policies. They are branded as terrorists, and in this case, as anti-Semitic. Once again, Muslims, Arabs, and Arab Americans are especially targeted for such attacks.
In the first six months of 2015 alone, Palestine Legal responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression. The overwhelming majority of these incidents targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of close to 200 scholars from different academic institutions in California which advocates the protection of academic freedom of faculty, staff, and students, categorically rejects all forms of intolerance, any discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslim (citizens and non-citizens) faculty and students, and all attempts to curtail the free flow of ideas with regard to the Middle East.
We call on all schools, colleges, and universities to honor and respect the academic freedom of all faculty, teachers, and students, and urge our educational leaders, not only in California but also in the whole USA, to fight Islamophobic speech and acts that might affect the academic rights of our faculty, staff, and students.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Professor Ahlam Muhtaseb
California State University, San Bernardino
Professor David Palumbo-Liu
* CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of 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.