California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Response to letter from CSULB President Conoley to ASI critical of BDS

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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May 2, 2017

President Jane Conoley

California State University

Long Beach, CA

Dear President Conoley,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 250 scholars**, writes to object to your undemocratic and repressive interference into debates among students on your campus about a resolution to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.  This campaign is designed to press Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, to recognize the human and civil rights of Palestinians, and to support academic freedom for Palestinian scholars – rights and freedoms severely restricted under this occupation.

The reasons you list for doing so, in your letter to the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), have little basis in fact.  First on your list is the claim that BDS resolutions are accompanied by an increase in anti-Semitism. While there has been a rise of anti-Semitic incidents nationally, there is no  evidence linking such actions with opposition to the Israeli occupation or advocacy of BDS. Indeed, your charge parallels those of certain right-wing lobbying groups allied with the Israeli government which frequently make such false charges to suppress any criticism of Israel at all. They offer little in the way of convincing evidence, except their circular claim that BDS is in itself anti-Semitic.

There are many Jewish faculty, students and staff on your campus and throughout California who have called for divestment from companies supporting the Israeli military and settlements as a non-violent path to end the Israeli occupation.

Your second reason is also patently untrue. The non-violent BDS campaign has taken no stance on what kind of state Israel could or should be.  The many participants in this campaign hold a range of views on this matter.

You ask why the students are not critical of Syria, or Russia, or Brazil: The primary reason is that there are currently no companies in the portfolio of the CSU endowment supporting a foreign belligerent occupation or illegal settlements by those governments. A number of students supporting the BDS resolution are indeed concerned about human rights abuses in other countries and are critical of policies of any number of governments, but the call for divestment from these particular companies has come from scores of Palestinian NGOs representing those who are being oppressed by a particular state.  To say that the students, or this campaign, are “picking” on Israel is disingenuous at best.  In fact, Israel is the only country in the world on behalf of which U.S. political leaders – and university administrators – engage in suppression of the democratic rights of the American people by attempting to suppress this exercise of free speech.

Academic freedom means that academic life is not always comfortable.  Students often feel uncomfortable with views they do not agree with or that challenge them to re-think their previous beliefs.  That is the strong basis for academic freedom – that people learn how to disagree with one another and learn to re-evaluate their own views.

As strong defenders of academic freedom, we are appalled by your actions.  We call on you to make a statement defending free speech and academic freedom, even when it is about Israel. We call on you to refrain in future from trying to suppress students’ – or faculty and staff – right to freedom of speech.

We look forward to your response.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Lisa Rofel, Professor

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb, Associate Professor

California State University, San Bernardino

amuhtase@csusb.edu

Dennis Kortheuer

Emeritus Lecturer

California State University, Long Beach

Dennis. kortheuer@csulb.edu

Nancy Gallagher, Professor Emerita

Departments of History and Feminist Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

Gallagher@history.ucsb.edu

cc: Chancellor Timothy White

CSU Long Beach Academic Senate Chair Norbert ​Schurer

CSU Statewide Academic Senate Chair Christine Miller

CSU Statewide Faculty Affairs Committee Chair Thomas Norman

President, California Faculty Association Jennifer Eagan

**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.

May 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment