California Scholars for Academic Freedom

letter to UCSB Chancellor Henry Wang re: Louis D. Brandeis Center

Santa Barbara, 3/12/14

 

To: UCSB Chancellor

Henry Yang

 

Dear Chancellor Yang,

 

We, The California Scholars for Academic Freedom**, write to you to inquire about the following article published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDBC) <http://brandeiscenter.com/blog/uc-santa-barbara-agrees-to-strengthen-civil-rights-protections-for-jewish-students/>. If the article is not accurate, we urge you to issue a clear statement to that effect in which you chastise the LDBC for publicizing misinformation about UCSB. If there is any accuracy to the article, we request a response from you regarding the following three contentions:

 

1) That “The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has pledged to implement recommendations from the Brandeis Center, and in return the Center has agreed to withdraw its U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Title VI complaint asserting that the university had created a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

 

2) That, according to LDBC President Kenneth L. Marcus, there were “incidents” and “infractions” at UCSB concerning the “safety and welfare of Jewish students” that the administration had sought to rectify with its pledge.

 

3) That UCSB has therefore agreed to “hosting on-campus educational programming conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on anti-Semitic hate and bias; and adopting a neutral observer program for on-campus events, especially those that could stoke intense debate and conflict. UCSB also issued formal statements that explicitly condemned anti-Semitism on campus and restated the school’s commitment to mutual respect, civility, tolerance, and decency.”

 

Our first set of questions relates to the assertions and allegations presented in the three statements above: Has UCSB made the pledge discussed in point 1 and agreed to the provisions described on point 3? What are the incidents and infractions alluded to in point 2?

 

If any or all of these points are inaccurate, we urge and expect you to issue a clarifying statement. If any or all are accurate, we would like to register our grave concern. We would be concerned about our administration pledging rights of intervention to a non-academic and partisan organization into the life of the university. We would also be concerned if indeed “incidents” and “infractions” regarding Jewish students at UCSB did occur, and this was the way the administration chose to resolve it. Finally, we would be concerned about a change in policy undertaken without disseminating information and pursuing open consultation with faculty regarding the solutions to the supposed problem of on-campus anti-Semitism.

 

In relation to the latter point we would also like you to consider and respond to a number of further concerns and questions:

 

1) There is nothing wrong with a university bringing in people to conduct anti-bias workshops. Indeed, there are a number of groups, such as the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI)

which do particularly good work on anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), however, while at one time it was a reputable civil rights group, has since become highly partisan and routinely engages in or supports attacks on the academic freedom of those who engage in legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies, asserting that these constitute anti-Semitism.  A case in point was the 2009 attacks by the ADL against our member and colleague Bill Robinson.

 

2) If the administration did agree to ADL-led “educational programming,” which body of the university will monitor their interventions, and how would student participation be managed?  On what basis was it determined that there is a basis for new and different programming for anti-Semitism that is different than current anti-bias programming regarding race, gender, sexual preference, etc.? If anti-Semitism is included in the existing programming, why would there be any need for additional programming?  We would note that allegations of pervasive anti-Semitism in the UC system are contradicted by the findings of the study conducted by UCOP.

 

3) What is the meaning and nature of a “neutral observer program” for events? Who will choose the observers and identify or select “observable” events?  Will they only be dispatched to talks in which the speaker is critical of Israeli policies?  If so, why are talks regarding Israel placed in a special category and subjected to non-academic partisan scrutiny?

 

We hope you will give our request urgent attention, and, in the fortunate case that the information published on the LDBC webpage were incorrect, you would issue an immediate and public correction to their statements.

 

On behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

 

Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor of Italian

UCSB

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

 

Nancy Gallagher

Chair, Middle East Studies Program

UCSB

ngallagher@aucegypt.edu

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi,

Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies

SFSU

ria55@sfsu.edu

 

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

UCR

david.lloyd@ucr.edu

 

 

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

UCSC

lrofel@ucsc.edu

 

Rei Terada

Professor of Comparative Literature

UCI

terada@uci.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of nearly 200 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.

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Letter to Dr. Leslie Wong, President SFSU, re. Amcha letter

 

Letter from California Scholars for Academic Freedom

 

Dr. Leslie Wong, President

San Francisco State University

president@sfsu.edu

 

CSU Board of Trustees

lhernandez@calstate.edu

 

Dear President Wong and CSU Board of Trustees;

 

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)* to express concerns about accusations made in a letter addressed to you by the Amcha Initiative. The March 5 letter is co-signed by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East; Simon Wiesenthal Center, Campus Outreach; Stand With Us; and Zionist Organization of America West. It is posted on the Amcha website along with highly inflammatory accusations against San Francisco State University faculty members and students. One link on the Amcha site is titled, “SFSU Prof Advocates Violence against Israel” and SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi is denounced as “the faculty advisor to the former knife-wielding student” [1].

 

The Amcha letter describes as “deeply troubling” the SFSU academic event, “Report and Discussion From Members of the North American Based Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014.”  We understand that the SFSU faculty members participating in the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative previously met with Palestinians from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council both in the West Bank and the 1948 areas, members of the Israeli Communist Party, PLO (Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, Fida, PPP, and Arab Liberation Front) and outside the PLO (Hamas) as well political independents, and with professors from the Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University.  The point of the meeting at San Francisco State University, to which the Amcha Initiative objected, was to describe and discuss those prior meetings.

 

The Amcha Initiative letter accuses SFSU faculty members of meeting with Palestinians, whom Amcha labels hyperbolically as terrorists or of having terrorist associations.  In a blatant attempt at censorship, Amcha calls upon President Wong to speak forcefully against the event, “to monitor it carefully for antisemitic and anti-Israel animus” and “(if it is permitted to go forward) to provide counter-programming on the antisemitic nature of such BDS activities.”

 

We urge President Wong not to yield to any of those demands, each of which would be an assault on academic freedom and a barrier to the free exchange of ideas.  For a university president to speak against the aforementioned Report and Discussion or monitor it for anti-Semitic and “anti-Israel animus” would be seen as a form of intimidation of faculty members and students.   Amcha’s proposal for counter-programming is a call for the administration to deligitimize this academic meeting and it is a step toward anti-intellecutalism.  If this principle were applied broadly, then any presentation on global warming, for example, would have to be accompanied by an anti-scientific presentation by climate deniers.

 

The Amcha Initiative’s McCarthyite tactics are not unique to San Francisco State University.  Amcha has denounced faculty members at other UC and CSU campuses for criticisms of Israel [2] and filed frivolous claims of anti-Semitism against UC campuses, later dismissed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education [3].  Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a co-founder of Amcha, has also made a public accusation that Muslim and Palestinian students are generically tied to terrorist organizations [4] and has been linked to spying on student groups [5].  The Amcha Imitative waged a campaign in 2012 to prevent Ilan Pappé from speaking on three CSU campuses.  Ilan Pappé is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, and Co-Director for the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies at Exeter University.  That effort at censorship failed due in part to the principled defense of academic freedom by three CSU campus presidents [6].

 

The conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has become a standard tactic by the Amcha Initiative and those who seek to censor criticism of Israel.  That tactic itself is fundamentally anti-Semitic because it associates with Jewishness an unending list of well-documented racist policies and crimes against humanity committed by the state of Israel, and it ignores the many Jews who actively oppose those crimes.  Far from the worthy goal of fighting real anti-Semitism, the Amcha Initiative serves the propaganda aims of the government of Israel, at the expense of academic freedom and constitutionally protected rights of California residents.

 

Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. Academic freedom allows professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech.   These are essential activities for any institution calling itself a university.

 

We urge you to uphold the academic freedom of faculty members at San Francisco State University and to recognize that the Amcha Initiative is an extremist organization whose goals are inconsistent with academic freedom.

 

References

 

[1] Amcha Iniative Website  http://www.amchainitiative.org/sfsu-is-at-it-again-tommorrow-prof-who-advised-knife-wiel%E2%80%8Bding-student-begins-recruitmen%E2%80%8Bt-for-bds/

 

[2] Amcha Initiative, The Electronic Intifada, http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amcha-initiative

 

[3] Victory for campus free speech as US Dept. of Education throws out “anti-Semitism” complaints, by Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 08/28/2013

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/victory-campus-free-speech-us-dept-education-throws-out-anti-semitism

 

[4] US university lecturer’s shocking hate speech against Arab, Muslim students condemned, by Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada 02/12/2013

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora/us-university-lecturers-shocking-hate-speech-against-arab-muslim-students-condemned

 

[5] Documents reveal Zionist group spied on US student delegation to Palestine, by Asa Winstanley and Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada 29 January 2014

http://electronicintifada.net/content/documents-reveal-zionist-group-spied-us-student-delegation-palestine/13130

 

[6] Open letter from Three CSU presidents, Jeffrey Armstron, John Welty, Harry Hellenbrand, February 16, 2012 http://www.csun.edu/%7Evcmth00m/3presidents.pdf

 

Contacts (listed alphabetically):

 

Kevin B. Anderson

Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Feminist Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

kanderson@soc.ucsb.edu

 

Mohammad Azadpur

Professor of Philosophy

San Francisco State University

azad@sfsu.edu

 

Carole H. Browner

Distinguished Research Professor

Department of Anthropology, Department of Gender Studies,

Center for Culture and Health, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

University of California, Los Angeles

browner@ucla.edu

 

Richard Falk

Research Fellow

Orfalea Center of International and Global Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

falk@global.ucsb.edu

 

Manzar Foroohar

History Professor

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

mforooha@calpoly.edu

 

Jess Ghannam

Clinical Professor

Department of Psychiatry, and Global Health Sciences

School of Medicine

University of California, San Francisco

jess.ghannam@ucsf.edu

 

Dr. Nubar Hovsepian

Associate Professor of Political Science

Chapman University

hovsepian@chapman.edu

 

Ivan Huber, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Fairleigh Dickinson University

 

Professor Mahmood Ibrahim

History Graduate Coordinator and Adviser

California State University Pomona

mibrahim@csupomona.edu

 

David Klein

Professor of Mathematics

California State University Northridge

david.klein@csun.edu

 

Dennis Kortheuer

Department of History

California State University, Long Beach

dennis.kortheuer@csulb.edu

 

Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Asian American Studies

University of California, Davis

rrodriguez@ucdavis.edu

 

Targol Mesbah

Assistant Professor, Anthropology & Social Change

California Institute of Integral Studies

targoli@comcast.net

 

Flagg Miller

Associate Professor

Religious Studies Department

University of California, Davis

fmiller@ucdavis.edu

 

Minoo Moallem

Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies Department

University of California at Berkeley

mmoallem@berkeley.edu

 

Ahlam Muhtaseb, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Communication Studies

California State University, San Bernardino

amuhtase@csusb.edu

 

Gabriel Piterberg

Professor of History

Director of the Gustav von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

gabip@history.ucla.edu

 

James Quesada, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology

San Francisco State University

jquesada@sfsu.edu

 

Craig Reinarman

Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies

University of California, Santa Cruz

craigr@ucsc.edu

 

Rush Rehm

Professor, Theater and Performance Studies, and Classics

Artistic Director, Stanford Summer Theater (SST)

Stanford University

mrehm@stanford.edu

 

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

lrofel@ucsc.edu

 

Vida Samiian, Dean

College of Arts and Humanities

California State University Fresno

vidas@csufresno.edu

 

Judith Stevenson, Ph.d.

Director, Peace and Social Justice Program

Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development

California State University, Long Beach

judith.stevenson@csulb.edu

 

 

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of nearly 200 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.

 

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment