California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to UC President Napolitano, Chancellor Gillman and Dean Chemerinsky re establishment of a National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at University of California and appointment of Anti-Defamation League staff attorney Michelle Deutchman as first executive director

  CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM**

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June 4, 2018

Dear President Napolitano, Chancellor Gillman, and Dean Chemerinsky, 

 

California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 university academics dedicated to the free and open exchange of ideas in higher education, commends the recent establishment of a National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California. We are however deeply concerned that the process of establishing this new center and the hiring and funding arrangements were not made transparent nor were there any apparent efforts to engage faculty across the system with expertise in free speech. Who initiated, designed, and provided initial funding for this new center? Was there any sort of faculty governance or oversight? Was a search committee convened to choose the executive director?

Indeed, we are particularly concerned about the appointment of Anti-Defamation League staff attorney Michelle Deutchman as the first Executive Director of UC’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.  As an organization seeking to be an impartial arbiter for free speech issues on campus, the ADL is severely compromised, especially with respect to the speech of those whose views differ from the ADL.  

Although the ADL has a history of fighting discrimination, its more recent activities reflect an organization committed to partisan politics and opposed to the very principles of free and open expression that this new center is supposed to foster.  The ADL has engaged in surveillance of oppositional movements within minority communities including black and Arab/Muslim communities. Tellingly, Starbucks recently retracted an invitation to the ADL to lead its anti-bias training initiative after complaints from African American activists who accused ADL of “constantly attacking black and brown people.”

(https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/05/starbucks_drops_adl_from_bias_training_day.html)

Furthermore, the ADL has been deeply involved in organizing training of U.S. police forces in Israel, a country whose police and security forces routinely engage in intense levels of surveillance, repression and violence against civilians, including inside schools and universities. Indeed, the numerous problems associated with the greater use of Israeli-style surveillance, spying on civil society groups, crowd control tactics, and similar policies, including on UC campuses, are well-documented and clearly contradict the aims of the Center. (https://theintercept.com/2017/09/15/police-israel-cops-training-adl-human-rights-abuses-dc-washington/

On university campuses, the ADL has long attempted to label much if not all criticism of Israeli policies, including but not limited to anti-Zionism, as inherently anti-Semitic. (cf. https://www.adl.org/news/article/anti-israel-activity-on-campus-2014-2015-trends-and-projectionshttps://www.adl.org/educational-programs-training/words-to-actionhttps://www.adl.org/what-we-do/israel/anti-israel-activity-bdshttps://forward.com/news/breaking-news/377535/senators-behind-anti-bds-bill-say-it-wont-infringe-on-free-speech/).

While this view is widely discredited, UC Regents nevertheless attempted, and partially succeeded, in having criticisms of Israeli government policies and Zionist politics equated or conflated with anti-Semitism in their 2016 “Principles of Intolerance,” following closely the line of argument laid out by the ADL and other partisan, non-academic organizations whose mandates prioritize support for Israel. To this day, the ADL is one of the lead organizations in the well-funded attempt to label anyone who is critical of Israel and/or supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. The fact that other major Jewish organizations like Jewish voice for Peace support BDS has done little to change ADL’s arguments. (https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/about-the-anti-defamation-league) 

We are not taking a position on the merits of criticism of Israel or any other state, group, or movement. Rather, we are pointing out that an organization that clearly acts in a partisan manner and has attempted to label legitimate criticism and political speech as a target of their repression is inherently biased. ADL cannot be understood as an organization that unequivocally supports the principles of academic freedom and free speech and civic engagement that your new center is supposed to uphold and foster. 

We urge you to solicit and publish a statement from Ms. Deutchman indicating that in her new position she would adopt a robust commitment to free speech and academic freedom that is decidedly different from ADL’s commitments and activities. There is a precedent for this: UC President Napolitano roundly clarified her own views upon assuming her new position in 2013: (The Daily Californian noted, “Despite the protesters’ concerns over her history in immigration policies such as Security Communities, Napolitano expressed strong support for the DREAM Act.” (http://www.dailycal.org/2013/10/31/full-text-janet-napolitanos-first-major-speech-uc-president/)

 We further urge UC administrators to include faculty in the governance of the new center. Our university can benefit greatly from this new center and there is much enthusiasm for its potential. The fulfilment of these expectations depends on transparency, openness and engagement across the system. 

Sincerely,

Nancy Gallagher

Professor Emerita

University of California, Santa Barbara

Sondra Hale

Professor Emerita

University of California, Los Angeles

**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.

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June 4, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Prof. Paul Nolte, Director, Dahlem Humanities Center, Freie Universitat, Berlin Germany, re lecture to be given there by Prof. Susan Slyomovics

  CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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June 2, 2018

Professor Paul Nolte 

Director, Dahlem Humanities Center

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

<pnolte@campus.fu-berlin.de>

Dear Prof. Nolte:

We are California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** a group of some 200 academics from more than 20 universities and colleges in California.  Our primary function is to protect scholars from violations of their academic freedom—whether here or abroad.  We have been informed that our UCLA colleague, Distinguished Professor Susan Slyomovics, is scheduled to give a lecture at the Dahlem Humanities Center on “The Afterlives of Wiedergutmachung: Algerian Jews and Palestinian Refugees” (which is on Post-World War 2 German Reparations) on June 3rd, but that Professor Slyomovics  has received an email from your Center that is of considerable concern to us.

The letter that you forwarded to Prof. Slyomovics from a group of Jewish student organizations in Berlin is expressing concerns about Prof. Slyomovics’ lecture.  They have written in light of the ongoing discussions in Germany on anti-Semitism, caused by a recent increase of anti-Semitic acts of violence in Germany.  Your email mentions other concerns you have about the BDS campaign, for example.  Her lecture will have no content of anti-Semitism, nor deal with the BDS campaign.

It is reassuring to hear you express support for academic freedom, but we are concerned about why you would, therefore, contact Prof. Slyomovics by telling her you have received this negative letter.  Such letters are generally filed away with the knowledge that any lecture on the Middle East, especially on Jews and Palestinians, these days, may cause consternation among some in various communities.

The letter that you forwarded to Prof. Slyomovics is from a group of Jewish student organizations in Berlin expressing concerns about Prof. Slyomovics’ lecture. They write in light of the ongoing discussions in Germany on anti-Semitism, caused by a recent increase of anti-Semitic acts of violence in Germany.  In your email you also mention your own concerns about the BDS campaign. Prof. Slyomovics may choose to reassure you regarding the content of her lecture, which, given its title, should not have raised any concern on your part or of those organizations. But we would like to stress very clearly that Prof. Slyomovics not only has a right to make arguments consistent with her research that might be deemed uncomfortable or unacceptable by listeners, and to participate in any movement she chooses (including BDS) as a citizen of the United States, but she also has the right not to be alarmed because of​ the potential discomfort that whatever she is anticipated to say may cause to whatever group of listeners. Probing emails like the one you sent Prof. Slyomovics may be intimidating to scholars less seasoned and established than Prof. Slyomovics.

Again, we want to express our concern and hope that you will stand by Freie University’s principle to support academic freedom.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic

Contact Persons:

Nancy Gallagher, Professor Emerita, History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Email: <negallagher9@gmail.com

Sondra Hale, Research Scholar, Professor Emerita, Anthropology and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Email:  sonhale@ucla.edu 

Lisa Rofel, Professor, Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Email:  lrofel@ucsc.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.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Chancellor Blumenthal of University of California, Santa Cruz asking him to speak out forcefully against efforts by the website Canary Mission to abrogate free speech rights of students and faculty

  CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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May 17, 2018

To: Chancellor George Blumenthal

University of California Santa Cruz

Dear Chancellor Blumenthal:    

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 urge you to speak out forcefully against the efforts by the anonymously authored website Canary Mission to abrogate the free speech rights of students enrolled in California colleges and universities who are currently profiled on the CM website, where they (along with many others in other states) are falsely defined as “racists” or “terrorists” because they have spoken critically about Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. 

We are especially concerned—and believe that you should be as well– by the Canary Mission authors’ explicit goal of harming students’ prospects of employment because they hold views critical of Israel’s policies and belong to a legitimate student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with chapters on a number of campuses.  Tarnishing such students’ reputations in the eyes of future employers is one of Canary Mission’s major aims, as the authors explain in a You Tube video produced soon after the website went live in 2015 and addressed to those who might hire students:   “It is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.”  For more background on the Canary Mission, see the Middle East Studies Association informative and firm statement. 

Recently, at campuses in California and across the nation, students in SJP who are defamed on Canary Mission have been reporting that they are facing difficulties gaining internships and jobs. One, an undergraduate political science major at UCLA named Robert Garland, has told us that a person actually called his former employer urging that Mr.  Garland be fired for engaging in “anti-Semitic” activities.  The false accusation rests on a common CM tactic of conflating any criticism of Israel’s policies, or any expression of support of the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, with anti-Semitism.  That gross conflation has been widely questioned in academic, legal, and journalistic venues.  It would be distressing to see it being effectively (and consequentially) tolerated by leaders of academic institutions such as the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Does UCSC have a Canary Mission problem? Alas, the answer is yes. If you use this link, you will notice that nine UCSC undergrads or former undergrads are targeted by Canary Mission. The organization scorns the principles of academic freedom and inquiry. It even seeks to punish students after they have graduated for exercising their right to free speech and inquiry. We think you will agree this behavior has no place in an academic community such as UCSC.

We call upon you to issue a public statement in which you condemn the Canary Mission, and uphold the rights of freedom of speech and inquiry in our community. Finally, we call upon you to remain vigilant against the insidious dangers posed by Canary Mission ‘s targeting of our students and support any members of the UCSC community attacked by them. 

Sincerely yours,

Edmund Burke III

Research Professor of History

UC Santa Cruz

Gail Hershatter,

Distinguished Professor of History

UC Santa Cruz

Lisa Rofel,

Professor of Anthropology,

UC Santa Cruz

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment