California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter from California Scholars for Academic Freedom to Professor Ikhleif Tarawneh, President of the University of Jordan

Prof.Ikhleif Tarawneh
President
University of Jordan
Amman 11942, Jordan

Dear President Tarawneh,                           

California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of 150 academics committed to academic freedom on university campuses, is very concerned about the aftermath of a student project–a film about student-to-student sexual harassment–that was created on your campus in December 2011 and posted to YouTube in June 2012.

Here are the facts as we understand them. After the film was posted to YouTube, the vice president of the University of Jordan phoned Professor and Dean Rula Quawas, for whose class the film was made, and angrily demanded an explanation.  Dean Quawas wrote a letter of explanation to you, the President of the University of Jordan, but received no response.  The four students who made the film suffered reprisals from other students in the form of stares and slanders.  No one in the university administration spoke out publicly either to defend the students’ right to make the film or to condemn the catcalls and sexual comments that the young women said they had endured and the social stigma they subsequently suffered.

If the above facts are wrong, we would appreciate hearing corrections. 

We are further aware that when in September Professor Quawas lost her job as Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, no advance notice and no explanation was given to her.  When considered together, your failure to respond to her June letter, your failure publicly to support the students who made the film, and your failure to contact her before replacing her may reasonably lead observers to believe that Dean Quawas’s dismissal was the result of her staunch defense of her students’ project.

Although one cannot prosecute a young man for saying inappropriate things to young women as they walk by, one can encourage the young women to fight back with speech of their own, including academic speech, as did the young women in Dean Quawas’s class. What administrators must not do, if they truly support an open learning environment, is appear to punish the women for speaking back and publicizing what hurts them.  The vice president’s initial anger and your subsequent demotion of Dean Quawas together create the appearance of punishment.  As such it sends the wrong signal to harassers and legitimate academic speakers alike.

We call on the University of Jordan fully to investigate the manner in which this case proceeded and the reasons for Dean Quawas’s dismissal. We further call on the University to work harder to create a campus climate that truly nurtures freedom of academic research and expression. Please defend students who take risks in their projects and reward the professors and deans who enable them.

 Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom          

Contacts:   

Katherine King, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California Los Angeles king@humnet.ucla.edu

Mark Levine, Professor of History, University of California Irvine  mlevine@uci.edu

* CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM 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: 

Her Royal  Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal, Head of the Jordanian National Commission

for Women

Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the University of Jordan: His Excellency Professor Khalid Touqan

Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Her Excellency Asma Khader

 Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, His Excellency Professor Wajih Owais

 

 

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December 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

An Open Letter From California Scholars for Academic Freedom to California Assemblymembers Linda Halderman, Bonnie Lowenthal, and 66 Co-authors of California House Resolution 35:

Coauthors: Assembly Members Achadjian, Beall, Block, Blumenfield, Butler, Cook, Fong, Furutani, Galgiani, Gatto, Gordon, Hagman, Mansoor, Miller, Monning, Portantino, and Williams, Alejo, Allen, Atkins, Bill Berryhill, Bonilla, Brownley, Buchanan, Charles Calderon, Campos, Carter, Cedillo, Chesbro, Conway, Davis, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eng, Feuer, Fletcher, Fuentes, Beth Gaines, Garrick, Gorell, Harkey, Hayashi, Roger Hernández, Hueso, Huffman, Jeffries, Jones, Lara, Ma, Mendoza, Mitchell, Morrell, Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Perea, John A. Pérez, V. Manuel Pérez, Silva, Skinner, Smyth, Solorio, Swanson, Torres, Valadao, and Wagner

Dear California Assembly Representatives;

California Scholars for Academic Freedom** opposes in the strongest possible terms House Resolution 35, a resolution which lists each of you as introducers or co-authors, and which was approved, with no debate, by the California State Assembly on August 28, 2012 [1]. The resolution poses a clear threat to academic freedom in the University of California and the California State University systems.

HR 35 does not create new law, but it calls upon university administrators to deny First Amendment rights to students and faculty. The Assembly resolution states,”[university] leadership from the top remains an important priority so that no administrator, faculty, or student group can be in any doubt that anti-Semitic activity will not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources will be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation.” The resolution erroneously gives as examples of “anti-semitism”:

  • Discourse on a campus that describes Israel as a racist or an apartheid state. HR-35 implicitly calls for the censorship of lectures and presentations critical of Israel such as might be given by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Mairead Maguire, all of whom have used the term “apartheid” in their descriptions of Israel or its policies [2]. Acclaimed author Alice Walker, along with other members of the prestigious Russell Tribunal [3], could also be potentially barred from California campuses if university administrators follow the recommendations of HR-35.
  • Speech that charges Israel with crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. HR-35 implicitly calls for the exclusion, from university classrooms, of reports that document crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing, as from leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The resolution could also lead to the ban of academic speakers from Israeli universities who have published evidence of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity by the state of Israel.
  • Student and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns against the state of Israel. HR-35 thus seeks to ban nonviolent resistance to the apartheid system of laws in Israel, a resistance analogous to the now celebrated boycott of Apartheid South Africa of previous decades.

Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. Academic freedom allows professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech. These are essential activities for any credible university.

The conflation of criticism of Israel or its policies with anti-semitism has become a standard tactic by those who seek to censor criticism of Israel. By way of comparison, it would be unthinkable to equate criticism of the government of China or the Free Tibet movement with anti-Chinese racism, despite the identification that many Chinese students feel with China and Chinese culture. Similarly, it would be absurd to equate criticism of governments in Africa with racism against African Americans. It is almost inconceivable to imagine an Assembly resolution that would conflate criticism of Egypt’s government with anti-Arab racism. HR-35 is no less ridiculous for its conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Censorship is not the proper way to counter speech with which one does not agree. Rather, the proper response is to argue with evidence and persuasion – in short – to engage in free speech.

House Resolution 35 undermines the First Amendment and calls for restrictions on speech critical of Israel that go far beyond any such restrictions in Israel itself. Criticisms of Israel that are proscribed by HR-35 are routinely aired in the mainstream Israeli press. We emphasize, however, that we are not suggesting that the boundaries of acceptable criticisms of Israel should be defined by the limits of discourse within Israel. California faculty and students have the right to unrestricted inquiry in this matter, and for that purpose, Palestinian voices are essential, though rarely given the opportunity to be heard on California’s university campuses.

The driving concern behind House Resolution 35 is not anti-semitism. Indeed, HR-35 itself is fundamentally anti-semitic because it associates and conflates with Judaism an unending list of well-documented racist policies and crimes against humanity committed by the state of Israel. Far from the worthy goal of fighting real anti-semitism, this resolution was written to serve the propaganda aims of the government of Israel at the expense of constitutionally protected rights of California residents.

We urge you in the strongest possible terms to publicly renounce House Resolution 35, and to vote to rescind it.

References

[1] Text of House Resolution 35, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/hr_35_bill_20120828_amended_asm_v97.pdf. Press coverage includes: U.C. report on Jewish campus climate: Results marginalize, misrepresent students critical of Israel http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/66225/u.c.-report-on-jewish-campus-climate-results-marginalize-misrepresent-stude/

UC rejects anti-Semitism resolution

http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/UC-rejects-anti-Semitism-resolution-3822759.php

[2] Carter; Tutu; Maguire

[3] The Russel Tribunal on Palestine http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings

Sincereley,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

David Klein
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, Northridge
david.klein@csun.edu

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies
Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative
College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University
amed@sfsu.edu

Ece Algan
Associate Professor of Communication Studies
California State University, San Bernardino
Ealgan@csusb.edu

Kevin B. Anderson
Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Feminist Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
kanderson@soc.ucsb.edu

Houri Berberian
Professor of History
California State University, Long Beach
Houri.Berberian@csulb.edu

Edmund Burke III
Research Professor of History
University of California, Santa Cruz
eburke@ucsc.edu

Judith Butler
Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature
University of California, Berkeley
jpbutler@berkeley.edu

Michael Cooperson
Professor of Arabic
NELC, UCLA
cooperso@humnet.ucla.edu

Samera Esmeir
Associate Professor
Department of Rhetoric
University of California, Berkeley
samera.esmeir@berkeley.edu

Gary Fields
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
gfields@ucsd.edu

Caudio Fogu
Associate Professor of Italian Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
cfogu@verizon.net

Manzar Foroohar
Professor of History
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo
mforooha@calpoly.edu

Aranye Fradenburg
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of California, Santa Barbara
lfraden@english.ucsb.edu

Nancy Gallagher
Professor of History
Study Center Director for the Middle East, UCEAP
American University in Cairo
University of California, Santa Barbara
ngallagher@aucegypt.edu

Jess Ghannam
Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry, and Global Health Sciences
School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
jess.ghannam@ucsf.edu

Gerry A. Hale
Professor Emeritus
Department of Geography
University of California, Los Angeles
hale@geog.ucla.edu

Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita
Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles
Sonhale@ucla.edu

Nubar Hovsepian
Associate Professor, Political Science & International Studies
Chapman University
hovsepian@chapman.edu

Mary Husain
Mass Communication & Journalism and Communication Departments
California State University, Fresno
mhusain@csufresno.edu

Suad Joseph
Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies
University of California, Davis
sjoseph@ucdavis.edu

Dennis Kortheuer
Department of History
California State University, Long Beach
Dennis.kortheuer@csulb.edu

Rose Marie Kuhn
Professor of French
California State University, Fresno
rosemk@csufresno.edu

Mark LeVine
Professor of History
University of California, Irvine
mlevine@uci.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb
Associate Professor of Communication Studies
California State University, San Bernardino
amuhtase@csusb.edu

Edie Pistolesi
Professor of Art
California State University, Northridge
edie.pistolesi@csun.edu

Ismail K. Poonawala
Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies
University of California, Los Angeles
ismailp@gmail.com

James Quesada
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
San Francisco State University
jquesada@sfsu.edu

Rush Rehm
Professor, Drama and Classics
Artistic Director, Stanford Summer Theater
Stanford University
mrehm@stanford.edu

Lisa Rofel
Professor of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz
lrofel@ucsc.edu

Vida Samiian, Dean
College of Arts and Humanities
California State University, Fresno
vidas@csufresno.edu

David Shorter
Associate Professor and Vice Chair
World Arts and Cultures/Dance
University of California, Los Angeles
shorter@ucla.edu

Susan Slyomovics
Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
University of California, Los Angeles
ssly@anthro.ucla.edu

Judith Stevenson, Phd Anthropology
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development
Director, Peace and Social Justice Program
California State University, Long Beach
Judith.Stevenson@csulb.edu

Baki Tezcan
Associate Professor of History, and Religious Studies
University of California, Davis
btezcan@ucdavis.edu

Howard Winant
Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara
hwinant@gmail.com

Stephen Zunes
Professor of Politics and Chair of Middle Eastern Studies
University of San Francisco
zunes@usfca.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of more than 134 academics who teach in more than 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a response to a rash of violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and to the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks were 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 and students based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.

September 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Letter to UC President Yudof regarding Campus Climate Report on situation of Jewish, Muslim and Arab Students

Dear President Yudof,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** write to urge you not to adopt the recommendations of the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report. We find the report’s recommendations pose a clear threat to academic freedom at the University of California. First, the report is based on sloppy methodology and clear bias. A comparison with the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report is instructive. The latter explains exactly how many people they spoke with, how they were put in touch with them, and lists their names and affiliations. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report merely implies that they spoke with a range of people but never specifies with whom and how they were chosen. In fact, the two people who conducted the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report appear to have spoken almost exclusively with those who would like to silence criticism of Israel on UC campuses.

Second, the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report explains in great detail the exact nature of the discrimination that Muslim and Arab students experience on UC campuses, while the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report quotes unnamed people as feeling upset about criticisms of Israel. In fact, the report focuses almost exclusively on criticism of Israel as a supposedly objective measure of anti-Semitism while giving short shrift to the broad range of Jewish student experiences on UC campuses. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report, despite a brief one-sentence disclaimer, essentially equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, despite having to acknowledge that much of this criticism comes from Jewish faculty and students.

Indeed, one key piece of harassment is missing in this report: the harassment conducted by those who do not want to hear any criticism of Israel voiced at all on UC campuses. The harassment by these individuals has been intense, both against Muslim and Arab American students and faculty and against other Jewish students and faculty who criticize Israel. This harassment has occurred on all the UC campuses. Case in point: the UC Santa Cruz campus. Two individuals at UCSC mobilized thousands of emails to criticize faculty who exercised their academic freedom of speech to criticize Israel. These harassers are the ones who equate Jewish students and faculty who criticize Israel with Nazis.

They also claim bias in these events and lack of “balance,” despite the fact that they have organized numerous events that are propaganda for the state of Israel. More recently, individuals who try to suppress academic freedom of speech in relation to Israel have tried numerous campus avenues and legal means to try to suppress this speech.

Finally, the Muslim and Arab Student Climate Report has a range of sensible recommendations, including a streamlined reporting system for reports of discrimination, multicultural centers for dialogue across cultural and religious differences, more accommodations for religious observance, and enhanced educational opportunities about the Middle East and Islam. In contrast, the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report basically recommends censorship: developing a policy against “hate speech” and banning campus sponsorship of offensive activities. Given that this recommendation comes in the context of a report that focuses almost exclusively on debates about Palestine/Israel, this recommendation is certainly too one-sided.

Indeed, we are concerned that the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report, given its almost exclusive focus on Israel, will yet again make Muslim and Arab students feel unheard and unwelcome at the University of California.

The fact that you appointed Richard D. Barton, National Education Chair of the Anti-Defamation League, to carry out the “research” for the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report ensured a one-sided, biased report not based at all on objective research. The Anti-Defamation League is famous for its activism in the United States to suppress criticism of Israel. Barton’s leadership on this report meant from its inception that its sole goal would be to try to suppress criticism of Israel on the UC campuses. Otherwise, you would have appointed a neutral person with a history of conducting objective research.

The conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism has become a common tactic by those who want to silence any criticism of Israel. We would never dream of equating criticism of the authoritarian government in China or the Free Tibet movement with anti-Chinese racism, despite the fact that many of our Chinese students identify strongly with mainland China and Chinese culture. We would never dream of equating criticism of authoritarian governments in Africa with racism against African Americans. More recently, we have not worried that criticisms of Egypt’s government or of Syria is a form of anti-Arab racism. The only way to counter speech we do not agree with is to encourage more speech.

Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. Academic freedom includes the freedom of professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech. (The latter is a right enjoyed by everyone within the jurisdiction of the U.S. constitution, but is the third leg of the principles of academic freedom because professors should not be professionally penalized for non-academic speech that they engage in beyond the academy.)

The Jewish Student Campus Climate report points toward a dangerous trend of attempts to criminalize any speech discussing boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel or settlements in the occupied territories, echoing a new law in Israel that punishes any public discussion of these activities. We do not want this abrogation of freedom of speech to be applied in California or by extension in the United States.

The courts have signaled that universities have a special responsibility to harbor even extreme speech. We urge you to affirm that the University of California strives to be a leader with regard to academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Professor Lisa Rofel
Department of Anthropology
UC, Santa Cruz
LROFEL@ucsc.edu
831-459-3615

Professor Nancy Gallagher
Department of History
UC, Santa Barbara
Gallagher@history.ucsb.edu
805- 893-3467

Professor David Klein
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, Northridge
dklein8@gmail.com

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a four-year-old group of more than 134 academics who teach in over 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a response to a rash of violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and to the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many attacks were 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 and students based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown broader in scope. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Academic Freedom | Comments Off on Letter to UC President Yudof regarding Campus Climate Report on situation of Jewish, Muslim and Arab Students