California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Chancellor Wilcox in response to letter about AAA

Dear Chancellor Wilcox,

We write to acknowledge receipt of a letter regarding the current vote of the American Anthropological Association on a resolution to endorse the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  The letter was signed by Janet Napolitano, President of the UC system, and the Chancellors of all eleven campuses, including yourself.

We are dismayed that you should have appended your signature to such a document, particularly in the absence of any consultation whatsoever with faculty most affected by such an unwarranted intervention in the democratic processes of an academic association.  We consider your signing this letter a breach of the principles of faculty governance in areas that concern the fundamental rights of faculty to guide academic policy and standards, including our right to determine freely our association with other scholars and institutions.   Issued during the ongoing process of the vote with the imprimatur of administrative authority, moreover, the letter can only seem to be an attempt to influence and even intimidate faculty on your campus and to deter them from voting for this resolution.

By contrast, the AAA has engaged in a three-year democratic process in coming to this vote, including a major Association Task Force investigation and report. Furthermore, the vote is taking place in accordance with the Association’s bylaws and procedures. You should not be participating in this effort to chill or to influence this vote, the AAA process, and the voices of the AAA membership.

We are particularly dismayed by your appending your signature to this document at a time when, as you well know, our campus, like so many others, has been injured by Islamophobic incidents and anti-Palestinian vandalism.  Even before the incidents that took place this spring, UCR students and faculty had reported to your office various attacks on their integrity, on their right to determine the content and conduct of their classes, and even on their right to host speakers. The broader climate of Islamophobia has had a chilling effect on our very own students and campus community. Reported incidents of discrimination and hate bias towards Muslim and Middle Eastern students are five times higher than last year. Additionally, in UCR’s campus climate survey, 70% of Muslim students reported they experience exclusionary conduct on this campus due to their religious affiliation. As on other campuses, these incidents have been propelled by outside organizations and have not stopped short of defaming and misrepresenting students and faculty publicly and with an intent to intimidate.  Still, your office has yet to issue a public statement that openly names such incidents and forthrightly condemns them.  Officials on other campuses have responded in such a forthright manner, and we continue to expect you to do so also.

Instead, you have signed on to a letter that in our view not only violates principles of faculty governance, but also encourages and licenses the very organizations that have been harassing students and faculty whose only offense is to believe that the sphere of justice is not determined by donors or university officials and who believe that the academic freedom and human rights of Palestinians is no less worthy of protection from constant and systematic violation than our own.

To our knowledge, such a letter, signed by all UC chancellors as well as the UC President, is unprecedented, suggesting that it is itself a response to outside pressure.  The attempt by the UC administration and its board of regents to suppress campus-wide movements for social justice is, however, not unprecedented.  The President and the Regents long opposed the movement to divest from South African apartheid, a movement now widely regarded as having contributed to the ending of a manifest and ugly injustice.  We believe that the current uncalled-for interference in the democratic deliberations of a scholarly body is an equally disgraceful act of hypocrisy, presenting the pretense of moral admonishment and respect for academic freedom while in fact violating both freedom and morality.

We urge you to rescind your signature from this letter and to commit yourself to future consultation with faculty before pronouncing unilaterally on matters that affect our affairs and prerogatives so nearly.


David Lloyd, Department of English and AAA member

Christine Gailey, Department of Anthropology and AAA member

And 26 other signatories


May 26, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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