California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to SUNY Plattsburgh Pres. Ettling, Provost Liszka and Dean Buckser re Harassment of Professor Simona Sharoni

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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September 29, 2016

Dr. John Ettling

President,

State University of New York, Plattsburgh

president_office@plattsburgh.edu

 

Dr. Jake Liszka

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs,

State University of New York, Plattsburgh

provost-office@plattsburgh.edu

 

Professor Andrew Buckser

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences

State University of New York, Plattsburgh

abuck005@plattsburgh.edu

 

Dear President Ettling, Provost Liszka, and Dean Buckser:

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express our deep concern over the efforts to intimidate and harass Professor Simona Sharoni, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburg.  Professor Sharoni is under personal and professional attack for her support for both victims of sexual assault and for the human rights of the Palestinian people.  More specifically she is under attack for her publicly stated support for the constitutionally protected Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, as reported in Inside Higher Education (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/13/professor-who-advocates-israel-boycott-latest-face-demands-records-about-her-career).

It is our understanding that the Israel advocacy group “Stand With Us” has now made 10 FOIL requests to the University about Professor Sharoni. She has also been subject to threatening emails and twitter posts. These efforts at political intimidation are reprehensible.  We concur with the Middle East Studies Association, which has written on Professor Sharoni’s behalf: “It appears to us that these [open-records] requests are part of the continuing campaign to harass and intimidate Sharoni because she has expressed certain political views.”

Stand with Us, along with the AMCHA Initiative, the Canary Website, and Campus Watch have increasingly received the attention they should in the mainstream press for their McCarthyite tactics (see the recent Los Angeles Times article on this network: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-uc-israel-palestinian-adv-snap-story.html). On other campuses, similar attacks have led to the defamation and physical threatening of students as well as faculty who are engaged in teaching and debating issues regarding Israel-Palestine. It is clearly their intent not only to intimidate but also to by example threaten others and deter them from their rights to academic freedom and free speech. These groups have a well-organized campaign to end any critical discourse on Israel and are fundamentally anti-intellectual in their aims.

We are pleased that President Ettling has issued a public statement in support of your university’s commitment to academic freedom—this is certainly a step in the right direction.  However, we strongly urge the University to explicitly voice its support for Professor Sharoni, since she is under a very similar kind of attack coming from a very particular set of groups operating external to the university and violating Professor Sharoni’s academic freedom for a very specific purpose.  At a time when discourse and debate on Israel-Palestine is urgently needed, it is incumbent upon universities everywhere to protect the rights of all its members to engage openly in that debate.

Sincerely,

Contact people:

David Palumbo-Liu

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor

Stanford University

djpl.2008@gmail.com

Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

University of California Santa Barbara

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

Nancy Gallagher

Research professor of history

University of California, Santa Barbara

negallagher9@gmail.com

**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.

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October 3, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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