letter to UCSB Chancellor Henry Wang re: Louis D. Brandeis Center
Santa Barbara, 3/12/14
To: UCSB Chancellor
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,
Associate Professor of Italian
Chair, Middle East Studies Program
Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi,
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
Distinguished Professor of English
Professor of Anthropology
Professor of Comparative Literature
**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.
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