California Scholars for Academic Freedom

letters

Please check back here for copies of all letters sent by CS4AF on academic freedom-related issues.

November 23, 2011

UC-wide

President: Mark Yudof, President; Regents; Academic Senate Chair: Robert Anderson,

Berkeley

Chancellor: Robert J. Birgeneau; Academic Senate Divisional Chair (ASDC): Robert Jacobsen

Davis

Chancellor: Linda P.B. Katehi; ASDC: Linda Bisson

Irvine

Chancellor: Michael V. Drake; ASDC: Craig Martens

Los Angeles

Chancellor: Gene D. Block; ASDC: Andrew Leuchter

Merced

Chancellor: Dorothy Leland; ASDC: Susan D. Amussen

Riverside

Chancellor: Timothy P. White; ASDC: Mary Gauvain

San Diego

Chancellor: Marye Anne Fox; ASDC: Joel Sobel

San Francisco

Chancellor: Susan Desmond-Hellmann; ASDC: Robert Newcomer

Santa Barbara

Chancellor: Henry T. Yang; ASDC: Henning Bohn

Santa Cruz

Chancellor: George Blumenthal; ASDC: Susan Gillman

Dear President Yudof , Chancellors, Academic Senate Chairs, and Regents:

We write on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom** to condemn in the strongest

possible terms the egregious attacks by police forces on protestors at UC Davis and UC Berkeley

in these last weeks, to object to the violation of their rights of protest, free assembly, free speech,

and academic freedom. We have watched with great concern as waves of revulsion and shock

have swept across the global media at the violent and injurious actions on the University of

California campuses. We propose the following immediate steps.

We petition for an independent investigation of these actions to be conducted by faculty senate

members and student representatives appointed by their own assemblies from the UC system

free of administrative intervention or oversight. The mandate of such an investigation should

establish who has authorized the police to unleash such brutal tactics of suppression and injury

on protestors, and to establish a precise chain of command so that subsequent and appropriate

actions, which would include censure demands for suspension and resignation, can be brought to

bear on all those responsible.

It is completely unacceptable to appoint a former LAPD police chief to investigate police

brutality within the UC system. William Bratton’s role as police chief during instances of police

brutality against those at an immigrants’ rights rally in Los Angeles in 2007 hardly qualifies him

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to oversee an independent investigation into police brutality. In terms of Bratton’s approach to

“excessive force,” he specializes in training police to deploy space-cordoning and crowd-control

methods that are less violent, but which end up eliminating the idea of public space and public

visibility altogether. This kind of vision is problematic for public spaces, but utterly

incompatible with the notion of common spaces in public universities. More importantly, such an

investigation should be led by those whose interests were directly affected by such police

violence, and those whom this University is designed to serve, namely its students and faculty.

These attacks on students, staff, and faculty have been repeated over the last few years against

peaceful demonstrations that have objected to the privatization of the public university system,

the devastating hikes in student tuition and fees, the extreme burdens of student debt, the cutting

of long-term and essential staff positions, and the increasing precariousness suffered by part-time

laborers in the university system.

In particular, we object to the use of police forces with weapons to quell peaceful protests and

civil disobedience actions. Protestors have a constitutional right to free speech under the US

constitution, but they also have, as members of the university community, specific rights to

exercise their academic freedom unimpeded and free of violent attacks.

At the time of this writing, it remains unclear who precisely authorized the violent attacks on

student demonstrators during the weeks in November, 2011. It will not do to say, as President

Mark Yudof does in his missive of November 20th, that he is “appalled by images of University

of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our

campuses,” without taking any responsibility for these acts of police violence against peaceful

protestors. Nor will it be sufficient for the President to initiate reviews of these incidences at all

campuses, or to propose engaging in “discussions’ with all of the chancellors. Vague gestures

designed to give the impression of administrative action—without any assignation of

responsibility or any revision of policy- remain both implausible and inadequate. Although

Chancellor Katehi of UC Davis claims not to have anticipated the use of pepper spray, she

nevertheless takes full responsibility for her action. If she did not authorize those actions, who

did? And the Chancellor of UC Merced claims that she “will neither order nor condone police

aggression or force during a protest on campus in the absence of an imminent and substantial

threat of harm to persons or property” (11/20/11). If this is so, does she break with UC systemwide

policy in making this claim?

If the UC administration claims that it was following “established procedure,” and that

established procedure violates the academic rights of students, staff, and faculty engaged in

peaceful protest, then that established procedure must also come under scrutiny. The Regulations

Governing Conduct passed recently by the UC Regents provoked many objections from faculty

and students in the notice and comment period. The justifications offered by the administration

for much of the violence of the last few weeks are spurious, citing the university’s prohibition

of (among other things) structures and tents on campus (something that happens regularly for

sports events, freshman receptions, and large parties). In defending the police brutality at UC

Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgenau disqualified the linking of arms as a “nonviolent” act.

Do President Yudof and the Regents endorse these blatant attempts to cast peaceful protestors as

violent thugs and terrorists, by twisting the very definition of nonviolence? In the absence of any

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response to the contrary, these assertions suggest that the UC administration needs reminding of

what kinds of actions constitute peaceful, nonviolent, and morally-motivated political protest,

and require protection as such. The definitions of civil disobedience and non-violent protest are

well-established and cannot be subject to ignorant or strategic interpretations of police or

administrators.

It is unacceptable for any campus to criminalize free speech, freedom of assembly, and academic

freedom. It is unacceptable to unleash police to commit criminal acts of violence against those

who are exercising constitutionally protected rights or who are expressing viewpoints that are

critical of the UC administration. It is unacceptable to pretend as though police officials who are

hostile to the idea of public visibility, with records of involvement in instances of police

violence, can “independently” oversee any investigation of such matters. And, it is unacceptable

to distort the very meaning of nonviolent protest in order to justify such acts of institutional

violence.

Finally, we propose that if the chain of command is clearly established and those responsible for

authorizing the use of police force to injure protesters can be clearly documented and named, that

(a) those responsible be relieved from their official duties, and (b) that the UC system, in tandem

with the CSU system, develop a policy that requires police to forego the use of any weapons in

the monitoring of free and peaceful demonstrations on any of our campus.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom**

CONTACT PEOPLE:

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor

Rhetoric and Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley

510-642-1415

Email: jb_crittheory@berkeley.edu

Lisa Rofel

Professor

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Phone: 831-459-3615

Email: lrofel@ucsc.edu

Carole H. Browner

Professor and Chair

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Los Angeles

Tel: 310 825 4119

email: browner@ucla.edu

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Suad Joseph

Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies

University of California

Davis, CA 95616

Phone 530-752-1593

Email: sjoseph@ucdavis.edu

Julia Elyachar

Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology

UC Irvine

elyachar@uci.edu

949 824-1489.

Beshara Doumani

Professor, Middle East History

Dept. of History

University of California, Berkeley

bdoumani@berkeley.edu

510 643-3147

Paul Amar

Associate Professor

Global & International Studies Program

University of California, Santa Barbara

Email: amar@global.ucsb.edu

Fax: 805-893-8003

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR FREEDOM is a four-year old group of more than 150

academics who teach in 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed as a

response to rash violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the 9/11/2001

climate of civil rights violation and to the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neoconservatives.

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.

PRESS RELEASE

California Scholars for Academic Freedom** Protest University of California President’s Apparent Bias Regarding the Right of Free Speech and Dissent on UC Campuses 

Contacts:

Jess Ghanam  415-921-8096   Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco  jess.ghannam@ucsf.edu

Katherine King  310-825-5071  Comparative Literature, University of California, Los Angeles king@humnet.ucla.edu

Mark Levine   949-824-6521  History, University of California, Irvine  mlevine@uci.edu

Sondra Hale   310-836-5121  Anthropology and Women’s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles  sonhale@ucla.edu

For Immediate Release

March 12, 2012: CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (CS4AF), a group of 150 scholars at twenty California institutions of higher learning, are concerned about the latest statements and actions of UC President Mark Yudof.  The group believes that under the guise of promoting “civility and tolerance,” Yudof has in fact delivered a blow to the right to dissent and protest.

Our concerns are twofold: an apparent bias regarding the right of free speech and dissent on UC campuses, and a stated reliance on advice from two organizations that lack credible experience in dealing with academic freedom.

In a March 8 letter addressed to the UC community, President Yudof presented a one-sided argument about the problem of intolerance by focusing exclusively on protests against speakers who represent the Israeli government or whose presentations endorse the manner in which Israel maintains its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

In his letter, President Yudof characterizes the disruption of speeches at a UC Davis event titled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out” as “hate-driven… attacks.”  In so describing the event, he appears to have relied on a letter from the AMCHAI Intiative and made no further effort to determine the facts of the case.

At this February 27 event, which featured two members of the Israel Defense Forces, there were two protests: an organized, peaceful protest by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and a sustained outburst by a university employee not associated with the group. The SJP protest was organized with the support of members of Jewish Voices for Peace and MECHA. According to UC Davis faculty who were present, this protest “did not disrupt the event, nor did any members of this diverse coalition interrupt the speakers.” Rather, the protesters carried out “a silent walkout” followed by “a small, peaceful discussion outside the building where they discussed the realities of life under occupation.” Yudof’s letter nevertheless characterizes all the protests as “verbal attacks.” It then compares them to hate crimes such as drawing swastikas on the doors of Jewish students, hanging nooses to intimidate African American Students, and spray-painting profanities across the entrance to the LGBT Resource Center at UC Davis.

We find this comparison appalling. Israel is a nation-state, not an ethnic or religious group, and protests against the policies of a government are entirely distinct from hate crimes.  We believe that this criminalization of protest does a disservice to the entire UC community.

To persuade us that he seeks to foster toleration for everyone, the President might have condemned the documented instances of harassment and intimidation practiced by Stand With Us, including attacking bystanders with pepper spray and brandishing stun guns at UC Berkeley on February 25.  He might also have condemned the monitoring of UC faculty by organizations such as Campus Watch.  In one incident, a “monitor” fabricated a quote in order to depict UCLA professor Susan Slyomovics, the descendant of Auschwitz survivors, as a Holocaust denier. No member of the UC administration has ever responded to such outrages with calls for tolerance and respectful coexistence.

An equally disturbing element of Yudof’s letter is the announcement that his office is “working with the Museum of Tolerance and the Anti-Defamation League to improve campus climate for all students and to take full advantage of our marvelous diversity.” The choice of these—and only these—particular organizations amounts to taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and related issues. By leaving out groups working on behalf of Palestinian human rights or human rights in general, but collaborating only with organizations whose mandates are devoted to supporting Israeli governmental interests and squelching criticism of Israeli policies in all public domains, including university campuses, President Yudof is in effect advocating for one party rather than promoting tolerance across the board.

Moreover, the selection of these two organizations is problematic regardless of whether other organizations are also to be involved. The Anti-Defamation League has led numerous campaigns to defame and harass academics and others who criticize Israeli policies. The League has been sued and lost several cases involving spying and harassment. For example, in 2011, it was ordered to pay $10 million in damages to William and Dorothy Quigley for libelously characterizing them as anti-Semites. The Museum of Tolerance, whose mandate focuses on public education about the Holocaust, has been implicated in the destruction of a Palestinian cemetery in Jerusalem in order to construct a park featuring a monument to Zionism. Neither of these organizations is qualified to offer advice on academic freedom or freedom of speech at public universities, and it is our position that neither of them should be relied upon by the UC or involved in efforts to pursue the worthy goal of promoting tolerance.

The president of the University of California, the second largest university system in the United States, should speak for all his students, faculty and staff, not only for those whose political affiliations he may happen to support.  According to the Jewish Journal, the President recently “met with all of the UC Hillel directors in his office in Oakland to discuss [their] observations regarding how Israel is faring on campus, how the Jewish community perceives the university’s actions and inactions, and, most important, how Jewish students are feeling about the situation.”  As far as we know, he has made no comparable initiative to determine how Palestine is faring on campus, how the human rights community perceives the university’s actions and inactions, and, most important, how Palestinian or other concerned students, of any race, creed, or color, are feeling about the situation.

It should not be necessary to explain that one can protest the actions of a government without committing a hate crime, and that reliance on partisan organizations is unlikely to “improve campus climate.”  We applaud and endorse any initiative “to foster a climate of tolerance, civility and open-mindedness,” but we do not believe that criminalizing dissent, as the President’s letter appears to do, can ever serve that purpose.

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a four-year-old group of more than 150 academics who teach in over 20 California educational institutions. 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.

May 1, 2012

Harry Hellenbrand, Interim President

California State University, Northridge

Dear President Hellenbrand:

We have read your April 27, 2012 statement “J’Accuse! The New Anti-Anti-Semitism” sent out to CSUN faculty and administrators.  Our group, California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** has been very busy responding to these various attacks on those who teach about or are active on behalf of the rights of Palestinians, and oftentimes critical of Israeli state policies.  We wish to express our appreciation for your courage in speaking out on this issue.  We have been unsuccessful so far in persuading most administrators in the California State and University of California systems, as well as the private universities in California, to stand up against these infringements on academic freedom and free speech that falsely conflate opposing certain Israeli policies with being anti-semitic. Your statement gives courage to many other individuals who continue to speak out against these infringements in our state.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom**

=============================

**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.

10 August 2012

Allan Gilmour, President, Wayne State University Allan.Gilmour@wayne.edu,

Wayne State Board of Governors c/o Julie Hearshen Miller <julie.h.miller@wayne.edu>,

Dear President Gilmour,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to withdraw your administration’s proposal that tenured faculty may be disciplined and/or terminated by a single administrator without benefit of tried and true procedures for peer review and due process. Such a policy would be a disaster for academic freedom, and we therefore join the AAUP/AFT’s opposition to it.

Reportedly, you have stated that you support academic freedom, but the proposal’s terms are sufficiently ambiguous to allow you or any future president to politicize all evaluation procedures at Wayne State.  How do you define “serious professional misconduct”?  What “professional responsibilities” other than teaching and research might, in the breach, constitute “adequate cause for termination”?  How would you determine “generally accepted academic standards and principles” without faculty input?  What is “employment related misconduct” [sic]?  What does “financially based reduction[s] in force” mean?  To us it suggests that an administrator could arbitrarily decide to reduce the numbers of a department whose faculty were researching and discussing issues in ways disagreeable to him or her, without knowing anything about the field.  Such an administrator could therefore use university (and taxpayer) money to do whatever s/he wants, with no accountability whatsoever.

Your proposal further states that “adequate cause for termination of faculty and academic staff shall also include . . . forcibly interrupting the normal daily teaching, research or administrative operation of the University or directly inciting others to engage in such actions.” Besides attempting to stifle long-established traditions of peaceful civil protest on university campuses, such a policy would also threaten violation of First Amendment rights, since “directly inciting” is notoriously difficult to construe with precision. The consequences would include expensive civil litigation and the heightening of tension and distrust at your university. Since studies have demonstrated that the best ideas—the most innovative and the most viable–originate in atmospheres tolerant of critique, we also note how vital freedom of thought and expression is to the quality and reputation of any university, Wayne State included. The disadvantages of the proposal heavily outweigh any benefits that might accrue from it, since nothing less than the usefulness of Wayne State to its students, its business partners, and the citizens of Michigan, is at stake.

You have reportedly said that even one bad employee is too many; but your wish to root out a few bad employees must not trump the higher goals of academic excellence and integrity, and constitutionally-protected freedoms. The advancement of knowledge is a good that transcends (but does not oppose) considerations of “efficiency” and “cost-cutting.” Universities cannot be managed like corporations. Through trial and error, they have developed careful systems of evaluation to ensure that the best scholarship is encouraged and research fields continue to advance over time.  What makes universities unique is the diversity and complexity of their goals and expertise. They bring together hundreds of very different, sophisticated, ever-evolving methodologies, working environments, and research topics, in the hope that interdisciplinary relations will (as studies of creativity suggest) spark previously unimaginable insights. No single administrator has the knowledge to evaluate any one of these diverse specializations or the work done by any individual within them, let alone to appreciate how cross-fertilizations and out-of-the-box thinking and behavior might be bringing along the world of tomorrow.  What is required instead is the very combination of specialist expertise, interdisciplinary consultation and administrative input that constitutes university assessment procedures today.

Academic freedom is either there, or it isn’t.  Only if academic freedom and due process are protected absolutely will the parents, alumni, scholars, professionals, policy-makers and innovators so vital to the prosperity of our universities be able to trust in the integrity of your faculty’s teaching and research.  History has taught us that autocracy does not encourage the openness to exploration that is the university’s raison d’être. To err is human; like the legislative process, peer review was designed precisely to prevent hasty, prejudicial or ill-informed decision-making.  Scholars must be able to brave controversy; had we not, for example, given the concept of neuroplasticity a chance, we would not now be benefiting from the new perspectives on the aging brain that promise to extend our productivity and well-being beyond previous expectations.  Academic freedom, and the peer review that protects it, are the guarantors of, not obstacles to, the quality and trustworthiness of the work performed at any university.

If your administration’s proposal is forced on the faculty, the outcome will be a rapid plunge in the prestige and quality of Wayne State.  It will undo decades and decades of hard work by your predecessors.  Please think again.

Sincerely yours,

Aranye Fradenburg, University of California Santa Barbara (lfraden@english.ucsb.edu)

Dennis Kortheuer, California State University Long Beach (Dennis.Kortheuer@csulb.edu)

Mark Levine, University of California Irvine (mlevine@uci.edu)

For California Scholars for Academic Freedom

**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.

On August 6, 2012 the California Assembly quickly passed a “non-binding” resolution, House Resolution 35, condemning anti-Semitism in California universities.   Assembly members were misled.  Anti-Semitism is important to condemn.  But this resolution conflates criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism.  It would criminalize speech on California university campuses that criticize Israeli government policies in any way whatsoever.  Please sign the petition to voice your opposition to denying students and faculty free speech rights in California universities.

Petition circulated by California Scholars for Academic Freedom:

We, the undersigned, oppose House Resolution 35 in the strongest possible terms.  The resolution poses a clear threat to academic freedom in California universities.  It calls upon university administrators to deny First Amendment rights to students and faculty by erroneously equating criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism.  If the California legislature wishes to put itself on record as being against racism in California universities, it should not limit itself to anti-Semitism but should denounce all forms of racism, including those against Muslim and Arab students and faculty.

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.

Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech.

We hope you will support free speech. HR35 is falsely premised and should be rescinded.

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

cc: Board of Regents

Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, presidents of Academic Senates and chairs of Committee on Academic Freedom on all UC campuses

President, UC Systemwide Academic Senate

Chair, UC Systemwide Committee on Academic Freedom

**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.

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.

Pamela Gann, President

Gregory Hess, Dean of Faculty

Claremont McKenna College

500 E. Ninth Street

Claremont, CA 91711

Laura Trombley, President

Muriel E. Poston, Dean of Faculty

Pitzer College

1050 N. Mills Ave.

Claremont, CA 91711

Dear President Gann, President Trombley, Dean Hess, and Dean Poston,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** an organization devoted to defending academic freedom, writes to express our concern regarding a recent alleged bias-related incident in which a CMC faculty member has been accused of harassing a Pitzer student who is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The student was engaged in an art performance that entailed setting up a mock checkpoint, a performance for which the group had obtained permission from the College.  While no faculty member should ever speak to a student in such a manner, we find it especially disturbing that a Palestinian student was called a “cockroach” in this case, as that term has a history of usage as a form of dehumanization in several contexts of genocide and by Zionist politicians in reference to Palestinians.

We support the Pitzer Faculty Executive Committee’s call for both Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College to investigate these events immediately and thoroughly.  We also concur with the Pitzer Faculty Executive Committee that it was unfortunate that the initial, public communications about this issue were focused on potential demonstration policy violations.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom stands against the intimidation of students, scholars and institutions, whether on the basis of their open advocacy of unpopular or politically targeted positions or simply on the basis of the fact that their studies or scholarship has been understood to challenge conventionally accepted political perspectives. Over the past five years we have, accordingly, spoken out against various forms of censorship, sanction, or restriction of

academic freedom of speech, whether in the form of the denial of tenure, proposals to defund institutes or departments, or restrictions of the freedom of students to engage in non-violent protest.

We therefore commend Pitzer President Laura Trombley for reporting that Pitzer has concluded that the SJP students conformed with all campus rules and norms about public speech, and also that she has expressed concern about someone teaching your students who has verbally attacked students.

President Gann of CMC put out a delayed statement a few days ago that appears to recycle the accusation that the SJP students were not following proper procedures for “demonstrations.” This accusation has already been proven to be untrue.  President Gann should not be recycling this accusation in the supposed name of parity.  We call on the CMC administration to defend students from such bias attacks and to be pro-active in supporting not just an inclusive community atmosphere, as the letter calls for, but in preventing your campus climate from having a chilling effect on potential suppression of academic freedom.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom**

Contact Persons:

Professor Lisa Rofel

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Professor Jess Ghannam

California State Assembly Members

Sacramento, CA

cc. Chancellors and Administrators of the University of California

Presidents and Administrators of the California State University

California Jewish Community Leaders

Response to AMCHA letter to California Assembly re HR 35:

Dear California State Assembly Members,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** write in response to a defamatory letter sent to you about us from one employee and one former employee of the University of California, with regard to House Resolution 35.

Tammi Ross Benjamin, a lecturer, and Leila Beck, a retired professor, recently sent you a misleading, inaccurate and defamatory letter about the California Scholars for Academic Freedom in response to our ongoing efforts to defend academic freedom in numerous settings. Slandering groups and individuals is a way to undermine academic debate.

This malicious attempt to smear the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of well over 100 faculty (not 35 as they claim), and to defame individual members of our group, highlights the essential purpose of Lecturer Benjamin and Professor Emeritus Beck to eliminate debate on California university campuses about the Palestine/Israel conflict.

On September 9, we sent you a letter urging you to rescind non-binding House Resolution 35 (https://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/) . HR 35 was approved, with no debate, by the California State Assembly on August 28, 2012. We oppose this resolution because it calls on university administrators to deny First Amendment rights to students and faculty.

HR 35 calls for the suppression of speech about Israel. It erroneously equates criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism. In our original letter, we pointed out that equally strong criticism of China would never be mistaken for anti-Chinese racism. Nor, we added, would criticism of authoritarian governments in Africa be mistaken for racism against African Americans.

Benjamin and Beckwith’s defamatory letter is committed to equating criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism. They also erroneously claim that the European Union, Canada, Britain and the U.S. government have passed laws defining criticism of Israeli government policies as anti-Semitism. You will not find a single U.S. federal law– nor a law in any country– defining anti-Semitism in this way.

Benjamin and Beckwith also misleadingly assert that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) accepts their definition of anti-Semitism. Not true. While the AAUP does not support boycotts of Israeli academic institutions, the organization has never suggested that

academic debate on university campuses about the Palestine/Israel conflict constitutes a problem, let alone an instance of anti-Semitism. Nor has the U.S. Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) called for the elimination of the state of Israel, as so erroneously — and dangerously — claimed.

Benjamin and Beckwith also falsely claim that California Scholars for Academic Freedom supports the boycott campaign against Israel. Our group has never taken a formal position on this issue. Rather, we firmly support all forms of debate on university campuses as exemplary of freedom of speech and academic freedom.

In their letter, Beckwith and Benjamin claim they seek to uphold First Amendment rights. Not so. The obvious goal of their smear campaign is to suppress criticism of Israeli government policies.

Public universities have a 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. Academic debate can be contentious. Faculty and students have disagreements. This is the hallmark of a strong democracy.

The malicious conflation of criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism is how our defamers seek to silence free speech.

We hope you will support free speech – and not let them get away with censorship.

HR35 is falsely premised and should be rescinded.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor in Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley jpbutler@berkeley.edu

Julia Elyachar

Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology, UC Irvine

elyachar@uci.edu

Richard Falk

Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University

Special Rapporteur, UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, Research Professor, Global Studies, UCSB

falk@global.ucsb.edu

** CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of some 150 academics from all fields who teach in more than 20 California institutions of higher education. The group formed in 2007 in response to a rash of violations of academic freedom that arose from both the post-September 11, 2001 climate of civil rights violations and increasing neo-conservative attacks on progressive educators. Our goal is to 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.

July 12, 2013

To:    Signatories of the May 31st letter to the UC Regents

From: California Scholars for Academic Freedom**

Re:    Concerns about your letter of May 31st to the UC Regents

We write to express our strong objection to your letter of May 31, 2013, in which you congratulate the UC Regents for their opposition to the UC students who have advocated for divestment from Israel for its violation of Palestinian human rights.

We find your letter disturbing for its inappropriate intrusion into campus political discussion, its potential chilling effect on academic freedom of students and faculty on university campuses and for its misrepresentation of facts about the effect of divestment campaigns.

It is not only a right but the responsibility of students on our campuses to be concerned about violations of international law and human rights by governments. There is a long tradition of divestment campaigns as an effective peaceful measure of exerting pressure on such governments and bringing about potential change for justice and equity. Labeling the efforts of the current divestment campaign on our university campuses as “divisive” and as efforts that “deepen the division between Israelis and Palestinians” is disingenuous and a misrepresentation of facts about how these campaigns have evolved and operate.

The divestment campaign has opened up a much-needed discussion about the Palestine/Israel conflict, including Israel’s continuous building of settlements in the occupied territories. Your letter attempts to stifle this debate.

Over the last few years there has been a systematic campaign of attacks, harassment, and intimidation on our university campuses by Israeli lobby groups, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). These attacks have been directed at faculty and students who advocate for Palestinian rights and critique Israel for its apparent violations of international law and its segregationist policies. The goal of this harassment is to silence any discussion of the Palestine/Israel conflict or any criticisms of Israel.

These campaigns have included attempts at preventing speakers such as Ilan Pappe, Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler to speak on our campuses, harassment of faculty who have organized peaceful lectures and forums on the topic, and intimidation of students who have expressed their opposition through peaceful resolutions and statements. Your letter supports such ongoing campaigns to abridge academic freedom.

In your capacity as elected senators and legislators you should remain objective and encourage civil discourse and free and open expression of ideas and viewpoints. Instead, you have resorted to irresponsible statements, such as HR35 and the current congratulatory letter, which have the effect of encouraging the campaign of harassment and intimidation launched by special interest groups and AIPAC affiliates on faculty and students.

We join the National Lawyers Guild (L.A. and SF chapters), the Center for Constitutional Rights, and The Jewish Voice for Peace in requesting that you remove your signatures from the letter of May 31, 2013.

Contact Persons:

Vida Samiian, Dean, College of Arts and Humanities, California State University, Fresno,
Phone:  559/278-3056; email address: vidas@csufresno.edu

JESS GHANNAM, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Global Health Sciences
University of California, San Francisco
School of Medicine; Phone: 415 921 8096; email address:  Jess.Ghannam@ucsf.edu

Sondra Hale, Research Professor and Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies, UCLA

Phone:  310-836-5121; email address:  sonhale@ucla.edu

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of nearly 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.
This email was sent to the following California legislators:

senator.steinberg@senate.ca.gov; senator.anderson@senate.ca.gov; senator.leno@senate.ca.gov; senator.deleon@senate.ca.gov; senator.huff@senate.ca.gov; senator.lieu@senate.ca.gov; senator.emmerson@senate.ca.gov; senator.wolk@senate.ca.gov; senator.gaines@senate.ca.gov; krista.pfefferkorn@sen.ca.gov; senator.desaulnier@senate.ca.gov; senator.torres@senate.ca.gov; senator.roth@senate.ca.gov; senator.evans@senate.ca.gov; senator.jackson@senate.ca.gov; senator.block@senate.ca.gov; senator.galgiani@senate.ca.gov

Assemblymembers

assemblymember.blumenfield@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.bloom@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.dickenson@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.hall@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.conway@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.williams@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.levine@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.buchanan@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.bonilla@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.calderon@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.chau@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.rendon@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.patterson@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.olsen@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.stone@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.daly@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.perez@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.ting@asm.ca.gov; assemblymember.fox@asm.ca.gov

August 12, 2013

Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal

State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 94249-0070

Dear Assemblywoman Lowenthal,

I am writing on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom* as part of our ongoing efforts to encourage the California State Assembly to rescind the parts of HR 35 that threaten academic freedom and falsely claim that legitimate discussions and activism regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitute “anti-Semitic discourse” and “anti-Semitic activities.”

Here is a link to a letter we sent to you and other co-sponsors of the resolution last year addressing some our concerns: https://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/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/

And here is an article of mine from Huffington Post analyzing the problems with the resolution: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/california-state-assembly_b_1842841.html

Although you were initially a co-sponsor of HR 35, we greatly appreciate your decision to publicly distance yourself from HR 35 when it came to the floor once it became apparent that the actual text was very different than you had anticipated when you signed on.

We also appreciate what we understand are efforts on your part, as a counter to some of the problematic clauses in HR 35, to introduce a resolution reiterating the importance of upholding academic freedom and First Amendment rights on California’s public university campuses.

However, any such draft resolution must also directly address the false claims contained in HR 35 that discussion of ethnic cleansing or other crimes against humanity by the government of Israel somehow constitutes “anti-Semitic discourse” and that legitimate discussion and activism in opposition to Israeli occupation policies somehow constitute “anti-Semitic activity.”

To take just two examples: A number of prominent Israeli historians, using Israeli government archives, have provided incontrovertible empirical evidence that the Israeli government and other Zionist forces employed a calculated policy of what is now commonly referred to as ethnic cleansing in parts of Palestine during the 1947-49 period.  Similarly, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, a number of UN agencies, Israeli human rights groups, and other reputable investigators have determined that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)—along with various Arab militia and armed forces of various Arab governments—have at times engaged in war crimes serious enough to be considered “crimes against humanity.”

Currently, the California State Assembly is on record claiming that professors who cite such research are engaged in “anti-Semitic discourse” which “should not be tolerated in the classroom.”  A resolution which rescinds HR 35’s call on university administrations to restrict such discussions is not enough as long as the Assembly remains on record claiming that to do so still amounts to “anti-Semitic discourse.”  An assistant professor facing a tenure decision from an administration of a state university which has been directed by the State Assembly to consider lectures addressing these issues as “anti-Semitic discourse” is going to feel intimidated, regardless of whether or not the Assembly is still on record saying it should “not be tolerated in the classroom.”  A Middle East scholar considering an offer from a California public university will still feel hesitant to accept such a position if he or she knows that the state legislature considers it “anti-Semitic discourse” to talk about these issues regardless of whether Assembly is effectively calling for a ban.

I can assure you that none of us has any desire to take advantage of our First Amendment rights to engage in anti-Semitic discourse or anti-Semitic activity.  It is therefore unacceptable to amend HR 35’s calls to restrict alleged anti-Semitic activities and discourse without also amending the false claims of what constitutes anti-Semitic activities and discourse.

The failure to thus far rescind the objectionable parts of HR 35 comes at a particularly sensitive time.  In addition to being a distraction from combatting real anti-Semitism, it appears to be part of a systematic right-wing campaign of attacks, harassment, and intimidation on our university campuses directed at faculty and students who challenge certain U.S. policies in the Middle East and policies of U.S. allies such as Israel.  These campaigns have included attempts at preventing reputable scholars and human rights activists from speaking, harassment of faculty who have organized lectures and forums on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and intimidation of students who have expressed their opposition through peaceful resolutions and statements. One recent manifestation here in California was the recent letter signed by 37 of your colleagues, including some in the Democratic leadership, singling out anti-occupation activists for criticism.  Indeed, this unprecedented effort by California legislators to inject themselves into campus political debates and its misleading and inaccurate language, like HR 35, appears designed to undermine campus democracy and free speech: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_23653742/stephen-zunes-california-legislators-attack-uc-anti-occupation

Should you be willing to specifically address these concerns in your draft resolution, we would like to assist you by helping you think about the wording and/or suggesting colleagues and others to testify before the appropriate committee.  For example, we could provide Israeli historians who have reviewed the archives revealing the policy of ethnic cleansing and why including discussion of such findings does not actually constitute “anti-Semitic discourse,” as HR 35 alleges.  We could provide war crimes investigators who have a reputation for balance and objectivity who could testify on their findings regarding crimes against humanity by the IDF (along with other armed forces in the region), and why discussion of such findings does not actually constitute “anti-Semitic discourse,” as HR 35 alleges.  We could also bring in veterans of human rights campaigns focusing on territories which, both currently and in recent history, have been under foreign belligerent occupation (such as Namibia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and the West Bank), their efforts to organize campaigns for boycotts/divestment/sanctions, and how such campaigns—including those currently targeting the Israeli occupation—are based upon legitimate human rights concerns and do not necessarily constitute “anti-Semitic activities,” as HR 35 alleges.

Please let us know if you intend to specifically address these false claims of anti-Semitism in your draft resolution and whether you would be interested in our suggesting people to testify at any hearings that might be forthcoming or any other assistance we might be able to provide.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Stephen Zunes

Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco

on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom

**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.

19/09/2013

Dear Chancellor George Blumental and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway:

We are writing to you as representatives of California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over a hundred academics who teach in more than twenty California institutions.

We are dismayed to learn that the Office of Civil Rights is investigating UCSC on charges of anti-Semitism, apparently because two faculty members disagree with the political views of speakers invited to campus to participate in scholarly events critical of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

The events in question were a 2006 panel in which a former member of the Israeli Defense Force spoke about human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a 2007 conference on the historical origins of Zionism that included noted academics who presented well-researched academic papers, a speakers’ series in college 9/10 that addressed conflict in the Middle East, and an event at Cowell College that discussed the Palestine/Israel conflict. We were dismayed to learn that a second event that was to focus on the conflict planned for Cowell College was canceled, which indicates a direct threat to academic freedom.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom was formed in response to the post-September 11, 2001 climate of civil-rights violations and increasing attacks on educators by neoconservatives. Many attacks were aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim, or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars researching and teaching about the Middle East and Arab and Muslim communities. Since then, our mission of protecting California scholars 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. Accordingly, we endeavor to speak out in defense of free speech on Middle Eastern and related issues wherever such speech is threatened or suppressed on university campuses.

UCSC is far from the only campus experiencing these attacks on academic freedom due to specious charges of anti-Semitism filed by a small group of individuals affiliated with extremist organizations. At UCSC as elsewhere, these attacks aim at overturning the normal course of academic discussion on campus.

Once launched by these small groups of individuals following a strategy set laid out by organizations external to the university and with extremist views, these specious charges of anti-Semitism take on a life and reality of their own. This process has apparently led to the current investigation by the Office of Civil Rights. The OCR’s current investigation gives new legitimacy to these specious charges by outsider groups and a few individuals on campus.

We urge you to make public the investigation launched by the Office of Civil Rights. What is the procedure to be followed? Will there be interviews with all of the University stake-holders involved? Will you share the results of the investigation with the University public? We hope that the process you set into motion will be transparent so that outcomes will help to calm, rather than inflame tensions on campus. We further hope that you will not allow two faculty members to intimidate and harass the rest of your faculty and that you will make a strong public statement in support of academic freedom.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact:

Nancy Gallagher

Professor of History

University of California, Santa Barbara 93106

Julia Elyachar

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Irvine 92617

City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich

800 City Hall East

200 N. Main Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Trutanich,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** write to state our opposition to the request you received from the Global Frontier Justice Center to prosecute Professor David Klein for his website-based speech about issues pertaining to the Palestine-Israel conflict.  The Global Frontier Justice Center is asking you to abrogate the right to freedom of speech and the rights of professors to academic freedom in the name of their partisan political stance that attempts to repress any speech in the United States that criticizes Israeli policies.

Their two previous attempts to silence Professor Klein have been categorically rejected, both by California State University, Northbridge’s then interim President Harry Hellenbrand, and by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.  In his public letter of April 2012, President Hellenbrand noted that “invoking the apparatus of the state to proscribe broad categories of speech in hubs of innovation and disruption like public universities will have the paradoxical effect of chilling public exchange while heating up zealotry.”  Attorney General Kamala Harris similarly concluded that the evidence does not support a finding of misuse of state resources.

In January, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out a similar lawsuit by members of a Zionist student organization alleging that administrators at the University of California, Berkeley had allowed an “anti-Semitic climate” to develop due to the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Student Organization.

The Global Frontier Justice Center is part of a larger campaign to repress free speech about the Palestine-Israel conflict.  This campaign conflates criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism.  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.)

Academic freedom is not absolute or unrestrained; its “enjoyment” is determined based on standards of scholarly excellence and achievement (e.g., acquiring a PhD or other type of graduate degree, getting a job as an academic at a university, publishing academic works in reputable scholarly venues, being promoted on the basis of periodic review processes in which the merits of an individual’s publications and teaching are judged by peers, and so on). Institutions of higher learning are the sites where academic freedom is enjoyed and thus they bear a responsibility for its protection.

The Global Frontier Justice Center is the U.S. representative of the Israel Law Center, which recently successfully lobbied for a law in Israel that criminalizes any speech discussing boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel or settlements in the occupied territories.  Any public discussion of these activities will result in punishment.  The U.S.-based Jewish Daily Forward, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have all criticized this law for its abrogation of democratic rights to freedom of speech.

It is imperative that you not allow the Israel Law Center to extend its suppression of free speech to the state of California and, by extension, to the United States.

The Global Frontier Justice Center uses harassment to attempt to silence debate in the United States. This harassment of Professor David Klein is one of many such harassment activities by individuals in the U.S. who claim to represent the state of Israel.

We urge you to affirm that the City of Los Angeles stands by the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, and categorically reject the request you received from the Global Justice Frontier Center.

Yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Lisa Rofel

Department of Anthropology

Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz

831-459-3615

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Manzar Foroohar
History Department
California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo
mforooha@calpoly.edu
(805)756-2068

David Delgado Shorter

Associate Professor and Vice Chair

University of California, Los Angeles

(310) 206-6699

shorter@ucla.edu

Gary Fields

Associate Professor

Department of Communication

University of California, San Diego

gfields@ucsd.edu

JESS GHANNAM

Clinical Professor

Department of Psychiatry, and

Global Health Sciences

University of California, San Francisco

School of Medicine

415 921 8096 (T)

jess.ghannam@ucsf.edu

Howard Winant

Professor

Department of Sociology

University of California, Santa Barbara

805-893-3118

hwinant@soc.ucsb.edu

Professor Mahmood Ibrahim

History Graduate Coordinator and Adviser

Cal Poly Pomona

http://www.csupomona.edu/~mibrahim/

**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.

Cc: Dianne Harrison , President, California State University, Northridge

Harold Hellenbrand, Provost, California State University, Northridge

Prof.IkhleifTarawneh 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

Letter to CSU Chancellor White re letter in response to ASA boycott resolution

January 6, 2014

Dr. Timothy White

CSU Chancellor

401 Golden Shore

Long Beach CA 90802

Dear Chancellor White,

On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)*, we are writing to express our strong objection to your statement that “The California State University denounces the resolution calling for an academic boycott of the higher education institutions in Israel, which was issued by the American Studies Association.” http://blogs.calstate.edu/pa/news/?p=3387

The American Studies Association (ASA) is a professional academic organization, which passed this resolution through a majority vote of its members in accordance with its constitutional procedures and guidelines.  Furthermore, in all its statements it has affirmed that its resolution respects the academic freedom of individual scholars everywhere. You may personally disagree with the resolution, but questioning the organization’s right to take a position and advocate for it is a different matter. Moreover, making your statement in the name of the CSU is very troubling.

Faculty, scholars, students, or any citizen of a democratic society have the right to advocate for boycott and divestment. This is a first amendment right. Such peaceful advocacy can have a political impact in bringing about change as it did against the apartheid regime of South Africa. This right is being exercised today by academics like those in the ASA, who support boycott and divestment “in objecting to the acts of discrimination, dispossession and denial of academic freedom in which Israeli institutions are complicit through their close collaboration with the state and its oppression of Palestinian society.” http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel

What is of great concern is that your statement is made in the name of upholding “academic freedom,” when in reality it suppresses the academic freedom of your own faculty. This is especially disturbing given that it is made from an administrative position of power and in the name of the institution you serve. When the administration takes side with respect to a controversial political issue, it has a chilling effect on the students and faculty who have the opposite perspective. Your statement helps create an environment of fear and intimidation for those who are not in a position of power but have a dissenting opinion. This is particularly problematic in this case because it reinforces positions taken by the U.S. government in defending violations of international humanitarian law and other human rights abuses by strategic allies like Israel and denigrating efforts by civil society to challenge such policies. It is disappointing that you find such nonviolent campaigns more problematic than the violation of international legal norms themselves.

Your claim of upholding academic freedom is not only contradictory but is moreover at best misguided and at worst hypocritical. How can you uphold academic freedom by suppressing the free expression of a critical position? Why have you so glaringly ignored the daily violations of Palestinian academic freedom and right to education? Why are you not questioning the systematic and longstanding violations of the freedom of movement and opinion of Palestinian academics, which, to our knowledge, have never evoked comments by you or your colleagues? The answer to these questions is all too evident.

We are all familiar with the pressure that Israeli lobby groups, such as Stand With US, AMCHA, and other local affiliates have exerted on academic institutions over the last decade to intimidate and silence all those who have been critical of Israeli policies of occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. A number of faculty members on your campuses have been direct targets of these attacks.  If such pressure groups are lobbying you to take the positions that you have taken, you must stand firm and remember your responsibility to the faculty and students under your care. You must stand firm in support of real academic freedom and first amendment rights on your university campuses. It is not only wrong, but also counterproductive to give in to such interest groups, whether they approach you with political pressure, financial threats, or other means. Appeasing them turns the largest public university system into a vehicle for the political maneuvering of these interest groups, and it encourages such groups to engage in the direct intimidation of faculty and students who have expressed support for the ASA resolution or engaged in criticism of Israel.

We call upon you to condemn Israeli violations of Palestinian rights to education and academic freedom with a level of concern similar to that you have expressed about the alleged violations caused by a boycott of Israeli institutions. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to withdraw your statement of condemnation of ASA and by espousing a neutral stance on the question of boycott and divestment affirm the California State University’s commitment to academic freedom.

Sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita

Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Sonhale@ucla.edu

Mahmood Ibrahim

Professor of History

California Polytechnic University, Pomona

mibrahim@csupomona.edu

David Lloyd

Professor of English

University of California Riverside

david.lloyd@ucr.edu

Vida Samiian

Professor of Linguistics

Dean, College of Arts and Humanities

California State University Fresno

vidas@csufresno.edu

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of well over 100 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.

 

January 12, 2014

 

Dear President Napolitano,

 

On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom we are writing to request that you make a public statement of support for the right of academics–students as well as professors–to refuse to turn over computers, phones, and other electronic information and documents, as well as field notes and other research related materials, when requested or ordered to do so by Customs and Border Protection agents in the absence of a warrant authorizing the search of their belongings. California Scholars for Academic Freedom is an organization devoted to defending academic freedom and representing hundreds of faculty at universities throughout California, the majority of them at the University of California.

 

During your tenure as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, you supported and enforced the policy of searching computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices and possessions of travelers without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion, at all points of entry to and egress from the United States. As you know, a federal judge just ruled that such searches are constitutional. We imagine this case will ultimately be heard by the Supreme Court.

 

As academics many of us travel frequently to the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa and other Muslim countries, and work on the war on terrorism, socio-religious movements and other sensitive issues. We study and write about civil society and political protest movements across the Arab/Muslim world. There is thus a strong likelihood that we might possess sensitive and/or confidential information from colleagues, interviewees, government and other officials as well as activists across the region, some of whom might have views that are critical of US policies and those of its clients and allies in the region. This information is part of our research and as such, we believe, it is covered by the protections relating to academic freedom normally afforded scholars. Some of us also work as journalists, and are thus also covered by the protections afforded to journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources and research absent a court order compelling them to turn such information over to authorities.

 

As a matter of principle, if presented with a warrantless request or demand to turn over such materials our inclination is to refuse to turn such materials over. We believe not only that our work as academics affords us particular Constitutional protections from such warrantless searches but that, given the history of NSA, CIA and other intelligence agency collaboration and cooperation with foreign intelligence and security services, including those that mistreat, torture and even kill people like those whom many of us research and write about, such a position is a professional as well as ethical obligation.

 

While you enforced the policy of warrantless searches as DHS Secretary, you are now the President of the University of California, with a very different set of interests, principles and people to protect. In that capacity, we would like to ask you, for the record and explicitly, to inform us whether we can expect the University, UCOP and you to support our refusal to turn over such information in the event agents request or demand to examine it without a warrant. Further, while we are aware this is not a routine occurrence, we believe the seriousness of the intrusion into our civil and professional rights and obligations demands that the University issue a firm guideline and policy on this issue.

 

More specifically, there are several issues of concern, including: the judge’s belief that “it would be foolish, if not irresponsible” to store anything you didn’t want anyone to gain access to on one’s computer (thus placing the onus on us to clean out all our computers and belongings of any information we might not want government agents to view before arriving at an entry/exit port, a near impossibility in most situations); the fact that the buffer zone where such searches can take place extends, according to the ACLU, 100 miles inland from all borders (thus including all UC campuses); and the fact that Customs and Border Protection cannot even inform the public of the number of times such searches occur (although DHS figures are at least as high as 6,500).

 

Indeed, the case just ruled upon (Case 1:10-cv-04059-ERK, Document 36), in which you are named defendant, specifically involved a graduate student in Islamic studies who, upon returning to the United States, had his laptop seized and was handcuffed and held in detention for three hours after agents ordered him to open his laptop and show them its contents, which included photos of Islamist rallies he’d attended as part of his research. The agents kept his laptop upon his release. We find it unconscionable not merely that this occurred, but that no apology was made to the student, and that no guidelines were issued by DHS to ensure such violations of students’ rights would not occur in the future.

 

Would the University offer a legal defense of and provide counsel to protect our right to keep our notes and other information confidential and out of the hands of US security and intelligence officials without a warrant presented to us at the time of such a request? Whatever your response, could you please provide us with your legal rationale behind it, so that we may understand the basis for the policy and thus understand how best to proceed. Your status as a defendant in the case while you served as DHS Secretary should not preclude you or your office from providing a statement of official UC policy on this issue.

 

Thank you very much for your prompt attention and response to this query.

 

Sincerely and on behalf of California Scholars 4 Academic Freedom,

 

 

Nancy Gallagher

Research Professor of History

UC Santa Barbara

 

Judith Butler

Professor of Comparative Literature

UC Berkeley

 

Jess Ghannam

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Services

UC San Francisco

 

Suad Joseph

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology

UC Davis

 

Edmund Burke, III

Research Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History

UC Santa Cruz

 

Katherine Callen King

Professor of Comparative Literature

UCLA

 

Mark LeVine

Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History

UC Irvine

 

 

David Lloyd

Distinguished Professor of English

UC Riverside

 

Fatima El-Tayeb

Professor of Literature, and Ethnic Studies

UC San Diego

 

 

(The above signatures, one from each campus, are included for contact purposes. The letter represents the collective request of the CS4AF community, including hundreds of other UC, CSU and private university professors in California)

 

Cc: Chancellor Dirks, UC Berkeley

Chancellor Blumenthal, UC Santa Cruz

Chancellor Yang, UC Santa Barbara

Chancellor Block, UC Los Angeles

Chancellor Wilcox, UC Riverside

Chancellor Khosla, UC San Diego

Chancellor Drake, UC Irvine

Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann, UC San Francisco

Chancellor Leland, UC Merced

 

 

1 Comment »

  1. As an American civilian, I can honestly say that I’m proud of these professors. Sending these letters came with a very real and inherent professional risk; these individuals knew this risk, and still committed to a real act of liberty. THANK YOU, for ringing my “liberty bell.”

    Comment by Ben | September 18, 2012 | Reply


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