California Scholars for Academic Freedom

CS4AF Post-Election Position Statement

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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November 16, 2016 Press Release

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

POST-ELECTION POSITION STATEMENT

 

As part of our mission to defend the deep values and ethics of California institutions of higher education, especially academic freedom, free speech, and freedom of association, we members of California Scholars for Academic Freedom **–200 faculty from twenty universities and colleges– stand united against acts of hate, and bigotry which have already been directed at our students and colleagues in the wake of a polarizing presidential campaign.  Such acts threaten our mission as educators in institutions committed to the betterment of our global society through teaching, research, learning, and the dissemination of new knowledge. 

We will support and defend the rights of the most vulnerable among us. We have seen firsthand the anxiety and fear generated in those deliberately targeted by electioneering rhetoric and who are now victims of hate in its wake: members of our community who are undocumented, people of color, LGBTQ people, Muslims and other religious minorities (the rise of anti-Semitism, for example), immigrants, the differently abled, women, and political activists on the Left. We will do everything in our power to lessen this climate of fear and mitigate its chilling effect on academic freedom both on and off campus. 

As activist educators, we commit ourselves to doing everything we can to nurture an environment that is inclusive and respectful of diversity in all its forms — in our classrooms, our offices, on campus, and in the scholarly community.  We will take action where and when necessary to defend the academic freedom, free speech and right of association of our students and colleagues. 

In Solidarity,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom 

Contact Persons:

Manzar Foroohar, Professor, History

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

mforooha@calpoly.edu 

 

Nancy Gallagher

Research Professor of History and Professor Emerita

University of California, Santa Barbara

negallagher9@gmail.com 

 Sondra Hale

Research Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies

         and Professor Emerita

University of California, Los Angeles

sonhale@ucla.edu 

 Katherine King, Professor of Comparative Literature and Classics 

University of California, Los Angeles

king@humnet.ucla.edu

 Lisa Rofel, Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

lisarofel@gmail.com  

 

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (CS4AF) is a group of some 200 scholars from over 20 institutions of higher education 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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November 17, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CS4AF Press Release expresses its alarm over the deteriorating situation in Turkey for university governance, academics and students

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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November 6, 2016

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

California Scholars for Academic Freedom expresses its alarm over the deteriorating situation in Turkey for university governance, academics and students.

 

The past week has witnessed the issuance of two emergency decrees that increasingly imperil academic personnel and the autonomy of universities. The first decree dismissed over 1200 academics from public universities across the country. The second ended the last remaining modicum of self-governance for public universities, transferring the authority to appoint university presidents (or rectors, as they are known in Turkey) to the executive branch. In addition, this week has also witnessed the issuing of detention warrants against 137 academics on allegations that amount to little more than guilt-by-association, tying them to a community that the government holds responsible for the failed coup attempt on July 15th of this year. Others targeted for arrest this week include elected members of parliament from the opposition party the HDP, continuing sweep arrests of municipal and regional elected officials from Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces (where now over 28 provinces are under administrative government with their elected officials in prison) and the arrest of the editor-in-chief and twelve columnists and staff members of one of the oldest opposition newspapers in the country, Cumhuriyet.

While we recognize that the attempted coup represented a threat to Turkish national security, and that the government must take legitimate precautions in the aftermath of that violence, mass firings of university faculty and staff and centralized government control over university governance have no rational relationship to such legitimate measures. Similarly, national security threats emanating from the violent spillover of the Syrian conflict or the insurgency in the southeast of the country cannot justify either the measures taken against universities and academic personnel or the repression of independent media and political opposition.

 

Taken together, the mass arrests and purges of academics, journalists and elected officials from opposition parties mark a grim new turn in the assault on academic freedom, freedom of speech and association and political and civil rights in Turkey. Under the state of emergency, the government has decimated judicial independence, abrogated the rule of law, targeted for detention and arrest the majority of independent journalists, and eliminated the autonomy of universities from government control. Of the tens of thousands of academics and teachers dismissed or suspended from their positions, a significant number are known leftists, government critics and individuals who have been outspoken on Kurdish rights. For instance, 24 of the 1267 academics dismissed by decree on October 29th were signatories of the Peace Petition launched by the Academics for Peace Initiative, a group that has no connection to the community the government accuses of having supported the failed coup. The evidence of a mounting campaign to target and silence political opposition of all forms threatens any possibility of meaningful academic freedom or freedom of thought in the country.

We condemn the suspension of basic civil liberties and the rights to political and intellectual expression and academic freedom that have resulted from the actions taken by the Turkish government under the state of emergency. The repressive actions by the Turkish state constitute violations of international human rights obligations and have had a chilling effect on the most basic prerequisites of academic freedom, including freedom of speech. We write to express our serious concern that these measures have also contributed to a frightening degree of instability and escalating ethnic, political and religious polarization in Turkey. We issue an urgent call for solidarity with Turkish academic personnel and students who are directly threatened by the actions of the Turkish government.

Contact Persons:

Claudio Fogu,

Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

University of California, Santa Barbara

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

Sondra Hale,

Research Professor and Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

sonhale@ucla.edu

Kamala Visweswaran, Professor of Ethnic Studies

University of California, San Diego

kvisweswaran@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.

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Letter to SDSU President Hirshman re response to hateful posters from the Horowitz Freedom Center

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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November 3, 2016

President Elliot Hirshman

San Diego State University

San Diego, CA

Dear President Hirshman,

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 concerns regarding your response to hateful posters created by the Horowitz Freedom Center (HFC) targeting Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The posters were found plastered across San Diego State University (SDSU) on October 7, 2016.

This is not an isolated incident as it was only six months ago when HFC posters emerged on your campus, singling out and accusing members of SJP and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) of being implicated with anti-Semitic and terrorist groups. This ongoing pattern of harassment and incitement by HFC against SJP and MSA demands serious and urgent attention, not least because of the way it creates a hostile environment that affects Muslim students specifically, while at the same time undermining the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints, and compromising educational goals.

The posters are part of a wider campaign orchestrated by a network of outside, non-academic groups that use public smear campaigns to suppress any criticism of Israeli state policies and advocacy for Palestinian rights. David Horowitz, the founder of the HFC, has defiantly stated that the latest posters mark the launching of a new nationwide campaign intended to advance those goals (http://www.stopthejewhatredoncampus.org/news/images-freedom-center-posters-targeting-hamas-and-bds-supporters-fall-2016). It should be further noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center has named the HFC a leading hate group whose goal is to spread hatred against Islam and Muslims, a finding corroborated in research by UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Last semester, your inadequate response to the Horowitz posters evoked a strong reaction by SDSU students, faculty, and staff who were justifiably concerned and disappointed that your administration had refused to defend students against defamatory and harmful allegations against them. What you did instead, under the guise of deferring to the freedom of speech, served implicitly to defend the slander and harassment of those who perpetrated the attacks. The outcry from within your campus community reverberated far and wide, resulting in letters and statements released by a number of individuals and organizations amplifying the voices of the SDSU community. We wrote to you in June to express our shared concerns, and urged you to recognize the outsider campaign of harassment and to address the broader threats to fundamental rights of academic freedom and freedom of expression arising from the incident. We emphasized the need to distinguish protected from unprotected speech, and thereby to recognize that the Horowitz posters are not merely offensive. Their design and dissemination carries the explicitly stated goal of silencing speech through tactics of intimidation and harassment.

Your response to the latest round of posters has demonstrated the continued complacency of your administration in the face of increasingly aggressive fear-mongering tactics deployed by the HFC. We find troubling that the justification for your response appears to rest on a biased and sanitized representation of the Horowitz posters as a variation of “free speech,” thus revealing a systematic attempt to dismiss the malignant intentions of the HFC campaign. This can be noted in your statement released campus-wide in which you describe the posters as being critical of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, while leaving out any mention whatsoever of the hateful and bigoted claims made against SJP, and against students who were identified by name. It follows that it is insufficient to assert that “the naming of students is intentionally inflammatory” without explicitly specifying the allegations brought against the students who were named. This glaring omission conveniently elides the fact that the posters are not merely inflammatory.  They are defamatory and harmful. We also note that while you acknowledge the repetition of the incident, it is equally important to name the perpetrating outsider institution that bears responsibility. Otherwise the implication is that these are random and isolated events.

We are deeply concerned by the manner in which the narrow and selective inclusion of the material facts provided in your statement obscures and downplays the serious nature and purpose of the HFC campaign. Even more problematically, your statement suggests that your administration endorses the distorted and perverse claim that equates the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement with anti-Semitism and the support of terrorism. The suppression of relevant information — and the apparent bias this reveals — is disconcerting, to say the least, especially given that it forms the basis from which you offer the anodyne conclusion that the posters do “not advance productive campus dialogue” while reaffirming the rights of all parties to voice their positions on political issues.”

Accordingly, we call upon you, President Hirshman, and your administration to reaffirm your commitment to the core values of academic freedom and free speech, which you have assured us are the cornerstone of the academic community at SDSU, by enacting the following set of tangible measures:

  • Reject the defamatory allegations against SJP as baseless and false.
  • Affirm the SJP’s legitimacy and good standing of its membership.
  • Name and denounce the perpetrator (HFC) of the vilification campaign intended to create a hostile environment for students from SJP and MSA.

Your students are engaged in and promote critical reflection and discussion on matters of public concern, drawing important attention to issues related to Israel-Palestine. They have demonstrated remarkable courage and perseverance as they have overcome hostile adversity with maturity, discipline, and moral purpose. Instead of passive indifference to the repeated hateful derogatory acts towards them, we insist that they should be actively supported and encouraged in their endeavors, and treated with the respect they deserve.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Dennis Kortheuer,

Professor, Department of History

California State University, Long Beach

Dennis.kortheuer@csulb.edu

Claudio Fogu,

Associate Professor,Department of French and Italian

University of California, Santa Barbara

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

Sondra Hale,

Research Professor and Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

sonhale@ucla.edu

** 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.

Cc: Eric Rivera, Vice President of Student Affairs, SDSU

Jamie Miller, President, Associated Students, SDSU

Marcie Bober-Michel, Chair of the University Senate, SDSU

Chancellor White, California State University

Loren Blanchard Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, California State University

Christine Miller, Academic Senate Chair, California State University

Thomas Norman, Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, California State University

November 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment