California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to President and Provost of Stanford University re: recent smear campaign against Professor David Palumbo-Liu



February 11, 2018

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Provost Persis Drell

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305

Dear President Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell,

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af),** a state-wide organization of more than 200 academics who teach in 20 California institutions.  We do so to express our concern about the recent smear campaign against Professor David Palumbo-Liu by the Stanford Review.  We are gravely concerned about the silence from you on this matter.

Professor Palumbo-Liu is the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor of Comparative Literature, who is a renowned scholar of Asian and Asian American studies, transnational cultural studies and literary studies in a global age.

Professor Palumbo-Liu has been the object of nothing less than a campaign of defamation in which the Stanford Review baselessly accused him of being a terrorist and a thug.  This outrageous accusation was then picked up by Fox News, resulting in harassment of Professor Palumbo-Liu and his family, including death threats.

University administrators have the responsibility to protect their faculty unambiguously from attacks on their reputation and integrity that tend ultimately to undermine academic freedom for all their colleagues.  We are facing a current climate in which permission has been given to alt-right media and organizations to spew whatever hatred and bigotry they hope will bring them into the limelight. These alt-right media are not interested in free speech or open debate any more than they are concerned with truth or facts; they are interested in silencing those who criticize them.

We note with concern that such attacks have been leveled with increasing frequency over the last few years, especially against professors and students. And we are also concerned that these attacks, while initially aimed at a specific group of scholars and activists, have created a wider effect of intimidation that has the potential to inhibit both scholarly inquiry and public engagement on numerous issues of concern, especially to minority groups.

University administrators have an especially important responsibility to ensure that our universities do not slide into the dangerous situation of silencing professors who develop their scholarship through critique and who speak out as public intellectuals.   Universities should be strong upholders of academic freedom.

We urge you to make a forthright and unambiguous public statement in defense of Professor Palumbo-Liu and to condemn the Stanford Review article that so unprofessionally targeted him.

We look forward to your response,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Lisa Rofel, 1989 Stanford alumna

Professor, Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Kamala Visweswaran, 1990 Stanford Alumna

Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies

University of California, San Diego

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English, U.C. Riverside

Sondra Hale,

Professor Emerita/Research Professor,

Anthropology and Gender Studies Departments, UCLA


**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 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.


February 13, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment