California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Dr. Leslie Wong, President of San Francisco State University, re contrition re unspecified states concerning zionists, asking for clarification of the statement



March 10, 2018

Dr. Leslie Wong, President

San Francisco State University

Dear President Wong,

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)*, an organization of more than 200 academics who teach in some 20 California institutions and who are committed to the defense of academic freedom at our institutions. We have written to you previously to express our concern about the ongoing defamation, intimidation, and assaults against academic freedom of SFSU faculty members (especially Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi) and students by the Zionist organization,The Lawfare Project, but we have never received a response from you or your office. [See our letter of June 28, 2017, attached]. We are therefore all the more disturbed to read your recent public statement expressing contrition regarding unspecified statements concerning Zionists. In particular, it is not clear from your letter which unwelcoming comments about Zionists you are referring to, whether or not they were made in public, and in which occasion you declared Zionists officially unwelcome at San Francisco State University. We therefore invite you to release as soon as possible a public clarification about the circumstances you are referring to in your letter.

Although this clarification will be necessary​ for a full evaluation of your statements, we cannot but be puzzled by the very fact that you felt it necessary to assert in a public letter that: “Zionists are welcome on our campus.” Such a statement flatly contradicts not only the actions of your administration, which has clearly made Zionists feel quite welcome to attack the academic freedom of your faculty (as in the case of Prof. Abdulhadi referred to above), but they also run counter the very mission of any university. This mission is not to welcome or unwelcome the adherents of any belief on the basis of any judgement regarding that belief, but it is to guarantee the academic freedom of all of its members. So, if you had expressed discontent and made unwelcoming comments towards some Zionist spokespersons or groups on account of their documented attacks on the academic freedom of your faculty and students, you would have been eminently in your right to have done so. What your “re-welcoming” comments have done, instead, is to further jeopardize the academic freedom of those who have been subject to harassment by those you have been so eager to welcome.

As you well know, both the faculty and students of the College of Ethnic Studies and the Program in Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies have been subject to a series of attacks over many years, ranging from frivolous lawsuits brought by expressly Zionist organizations, to campaigns of defamation and intimidation. Your stating that “Zionists are welcome on our campus” has therefore singled out for special treatment the adherents of one political philosophy whose actions have all too often had a pernicious effect on academic and personal freedom to study and research on your campus, at a time when your response to that very group’s ongoing campaign of harassment that injures many of your community has been singularly inadequate. From our perspective of faculty concerned with the academic freedom of all members of your university community, and quite aside from the circumstances that prompted it, your public statement has added insult to injury, and violated your responsibility to offer equal protection and space to the persons and to the ideas that compose the campus community.

On account of all of the above we urge you to offer immediately a public explanation for the circumstances that have led to your issuing your statement about welcoming Zionists to SFSU, taking into serious consideration the offence and pain it has already caused to faculty and students whom you have failed to defend in the face of attacks by those you have welcomed. We also ask that you clarify that your personal welcome to Zionists does not and cannot reflect the policy of the university as a whole, and that it is not tantamount to a declaration that either Zionism, as a political philosophy that privileges one ethnicity above others, or the state and policies that it justifies should be exempt from criticism, or that the actions of its proponents should be exempt from peaceful protest.


California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor of French and Italian

University of California, Santa Barbara

Sondra Hale

Research Professor of, Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

University of California, Riverside
cc: Timothy White, CSU Chancellor:

Christine Miller, Chair of the CSU Academic Senate (ASCSU):

Thomas Norman, Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee:

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of more than 200 academics who teach in 20 California institutions.  The group formed as a response to various violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks have been aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities.  Our goal of protecting California Scholars based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope to include threats to academic freedom across the United States, and where relevant, globally as well. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.


March 26, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment