CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
October 1, 2018
President Janet Napolitano
Office of the President
University of California
Chancellor Tim White
Office of the Chancellor
California State University
Dear UC President Napolitano and CSU Chancellor White,
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 members, ** write with grave concern about the future decisions about how to allocate the $1.2 million dollars that the California state legislature included in their budget for anti-bias training at UC and CSU. This decision should be public and transparent. Given that UC and CSU are public universities, we, who are members of these institutions, should be given the opportunity to take part in this decision-making process by responding to a public Request for Proposals (RFP).
We are especially concerned that any part of these funds might go to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). As demonstrated during the recent Starbucks controversy, ADL is unqualified for this role because it has placed its commitment to “Stand Up For Israel” above its original mission to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. It has thereby lost the trust of communities of color and social justice activists.
ADL is itself biased against advocates for Palestinian rights, and has a history of inflaming conflict by targeting Palestinians, Muslims and social justice activists. The debate over Israel-Palestine, like other great moral issues of our time, has been a source of contention on campuses. It engages many different student populations, including Palestinians and other Arab people, Jewish people of various viewpoints, Muslims and communities of color who identify their struggles with that of the Palestinian people.
ADL is a staunch partisan in the fray, falsely casting those who are critical of Israel’s policies as anti-Semitic and supportive of terrorism. In this pursuit, ADL has over the years carried out mass surveillance of American Arabs and Muslims and many social justice groups including the ACLU, Asian Law Caucus, NAACP, New Jewish Agenda and the United Farm Workers. It lent support to high-profile anti-Muslim initiatives following 9/11, including opposition to the construction of Islamic cultural centers and mosques, and the smear campaign against the principal of the country’s first English-Arabic public school.
An organization such as the ADL that champions exchanges between our local law enforcement and a country where soldiers and police are known for their grievous abuses against a population that is literally under occupation should not be in charge of training California universities on “how to best respond to hate and intergroup conflict on campus.”
The proposal that ADL should lead an anti-bias training on our campuses is another effort to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. The previous UC President, Mark Yudof, hired the ADL to write a report on anti-Semitism on UC campuses. The ADL conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in that report. It did not follow any of the accepted procedures for social science research, refusing to explain how it got its information and excluding the voices of Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian faculty and students who opposed this conflation and are critical of Israel. The one and only conclusion of that report was: censorship. The ADL frankly and explicitly recommended that the UC suppress criticism of Israel. This recommendation obviously goes against the very basis of a university, which is academic freedom.
Given the severe problems we face in California at this moment concerning the status of our DACA students, the anti-immigration policies and Muslim Ban emanating from the White House, and the Islamophobia and racism against our African American, Muslim and Latino students, we have a responsibility as public educators to address these myriad problems and not allow the ADL to hijack the agenda with their spurious conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
We expect to hear when there will be time scheduled for you to accept public comments on this funding allocation and when you will put out a RFP.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Professor Lisa Rofel,
Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz
Professor Sang Hea Kil
“Justice” Studies Department
San José State University
Professor Jess Ghannam
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and
Global Health Sciences
University of California San Francisco
School of Medicine
California State University, Long Beach
Department of English
University of California, Davis
** 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.