California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to SFSU President Les Wong about Islamophobic fliers and posters on campus Wed. 4 May

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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May 11, 2017

President Les Wong

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, CA

Dear President Wong,

 

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 scholars**, writes to you with great alarm and concern over a new wave of Islamophobic, racist, and hate speech incited against Palestinian advocates by fliers and posters posted on your campus on Wednesday May 4. These hateful writings are explicitly directed against Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.  They are incendiary, dangerous, and create a climate of fear for the entire campus community.

Like their predecessors, these fliers and posters are part of well-funded, orchestrated national campaigns to bully and intimidate in order to silence debate about a range of complex issues, including but not limited to Israel and Palestine. They have all been produced by the so-called Horowitz Freedom Center. This is the same group that plastered posters vilifying SFSU faculty member Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi and SFSU Palestinian students and activists last semester. Its members used the same tactics on other CSU campuses, including San Diego State. They have made targeted students and faculty vulnerable to more attacks, and have created an unsafe work and study environment for them.

Using freedom of speech as defense in this case is highly problematic, if not outright false. True freedom of speech does not mean impunity for racists and Islamophobes who threaten individual faculty and students, and incite violence against them. Just as the university would not have tolerated anti-Semitic attacks against faculty and student groups on campus, the same must apply to Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim members of its community.

We call on you and your administration to take a swift and firm stance against such bigotry.

We urge you, President Wong and SFSU leadership as well as CSU Chancellor Timothy White and the trustees of CSU to show genuine interest in protecting the faculty and students on CSU campuses and take legal action against these groups.

Signed on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Manzar Foroohar

Professor of History

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

mforooha@calpoly.edu

cc: Chancellor Timothy White

Provost Jennifer Summit

Dean Kenneth P. Monteiro

SFSU Senate Chair Troi Carleton

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 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Letter to Ca. Senate Education and Judiciary Committees about SB 677

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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Los Angeles, April 11, 2017

To:     California Senate Education Committee

California Senate Judiciary Committee

From: California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Re:      SB 677 “Student Whistleblower Protection” (Moorlach)

 

We write on behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** to express deep concerns over SB 677 introduced by Senator Moorlach. If approved, SB 677 will amend the Education Code section 78907, which prohibits “The use by any person, including a student, of any electronic listening or recording device in any classroom without the prior consent of the instructor….” SB 677 will allow anyone, including students, to secretly record classroom statements and conversations, based on a perceived “reasonable belief” that the statements violate a particular law or policy.

We believe the bill is an attempt to change the environment of free exchange of ideas in the classroom and on college campuses in California. If approved, it would foster an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between students and faculty. In particular it would have a chilling effect on California higher education and would impinge on all faculty’s ability to fulfill their fundamental mission of discovering knowledge and disseminating it to students and to society at large in an environment free of intimidation and fear of reprisals. Worse still, this bill will provide political and interest groups with an opportunity to silence dissent and limit academic freedom by allowing the recording and reporting of class lectures and discussions out of context, and, in this age of social media sensationalism, with no concerns for accuracy, transparency and due process. In a word, it will give people and organizations with a political agenda the tool to smear at will anyone’s academic reputation and gravely jeopardize academic freedom as a whole on university campuses.

The political motivation of the bill is made clear by the fact that its authors don’t cite any situation which would even warrant taking seriously their concerns: the bill pretends to provide protection for students, who “believe” they might be penalized for their political views expressed in the classroom, ignoring the fact that universities already have policies and well-established procedures to deal with students’ complaints and to ensure full protection of freedom of speech for students and other members of the university community.

Turning students into snitches and agents for the state is not only detrimental to the entire goal of higher education but also to the health of our democratic culture as a whole. A meaningful higher education exposes students to different ideas and perspectives to help them develop critical thinking, become independent thinkers, and educated citizens. If professors do not have the freedom to express ideas different from the accepted norms, the educational system would fail to fulfill its core mission.

To protect California higher education, academic freedom and freedom of speech we urge you to oppose SB 677.

Contact Persons:

Prof. Manzar Foroohar

Professor of History

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

maforooha@calpoly.edu

Prof. Claudio Fogu

Associate Professor of Italian Studies,
Department of French and Italian

University of California Santa Barbara

cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

Prof. Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

lrofel@usc.edu

 

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

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment