California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to CSU Fresno President Castro about abrupt shutting down of search for Edward Said Professorship

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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President Joseph Castro 30 May 2017

California State University, Fresno [josephcastro@csufresno.edu]

Cc: Chancellor Timothy P. White [twhite@calstate.edu]

Provost Lynnette Zelezny [lynnette@csufresno.edu]

Dean Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval [sjimenez@csufresno.edu]

Dear President Castro:

On behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af)*, we are writing to express our strong objection to your administration’s abrupt closure of the Edward W. Said Professorship Search after all aspects of the search were completed by the search committee.

It is disturbing that the information was first brought to our attention through the resignation of a faculty member and former dean in objection to this closure.  We understand that a campaign of harassment and intimidation of search committee members was conducted by some ideologically-driven ​Zionist advocacy groups and individuals after the list of the four finalists, who were of Palestinian and Middle Eastern origin, was announced.

Such campaigns are egregious violations of academic freedom and undermine the integrity of academic processes and procedures.  Even more egregious, by closing the search over the objections of the search committee, your administration implemented the discriminatory intent of the attacks launched by special interest groups.  These attacks are in violation of Title VI. They have focused on the Middle Eastern and Palestinian ethnicity and national origin of the finalists.

It is important to add that this search would have culminated in California State University, Fresno, having the second Edward W. Said chair in the country, after Columbia University, a major honor for your institution.  Professor Edward W. Said, the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, was a major literary and post-colonial theorist of our times. He was a Palestinian American scholar of prodigious reputation, one of the most renowned academics and public intellectuals in the world.  Having an Edward Said chair at CSU Fresno would serve to enhance the reputation of the university and of the California State University system.

Allowing special interest groups to change the course of the search process is an affront to academic freedom and the integrity of academic searches and programs, which are under the purview of the faculty.

We call on you to stand by your faculty in the search committee and protect the academic freedom and the rights of the finalists. We call on you to maintain the reputation of your fine university by reestablishing and completing the search with the original search committee.

Sincerely yours,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact persons on behalf of CS4AF:

Claudio Fogu, Associate Professor of Italian Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

Manzar Foroohar, Professor of History, California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo.  manzarforoohar@gmail.com

Sondra Hale, Research Professor and Professor Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles. Sonhale@ucla.edu

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

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

Further information on CS4AF: https://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com

 

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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May 11, 2017

President Les Wong

San Francisco State University

San Francisco, CA

Dear President Wong,

 

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

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

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

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

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

Signed on behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Manzar Foroohar

Professor of History

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

mforooha@calpoly.edu

cc: Chancellor Timothy White

Provost Jennifer Summit

Dean Kenneth P. Monteiro

SFSU Senate Chair Troi Carleton

CSU Statewide Academic Senate Chair Christine Miller

CSU Statewide Faculty Affairs Committee Chair Thomas Norman

President, California Faculty Association Jennifer Eagan

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

 

May 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Response to letter from CSULB President Conoley to ASI critical of BDS

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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May 2, 2017

President Jane Conoley

California State University

Long Beach, CA

Dear President Conoley,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 250 scholars**, writes to object to your undemocratic and repressive interference into debates among students on your campus about a resolution to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.  This campaign is designed to press Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, to recognize the human and civil rights of Palestinians, and to support academic freedom for Palestinian scholars – rights and freedoms severely restricted under this occupation.

The reasons you list for doing so, in your letter to the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), have little basis in fact.  First on your list is the claim that BDS resolutions are accompanied by an increase in anti-Semitism. While there has been a rise of anti-Semitic incidents nationally, there is no  evidence linking such actions with opposition to the Israeli occupation or advocacy of BDS. Indeed, your charge parallels those of certain right-wing lobbying groups allied with the Israeli government which frequently make such false charges to suppress any criticism of Israel at all. They offer little in the way of convincing evidence, except their circular claim that BDS is in itself anti-Semitic.

There are many Jewish faculty, students and staff on your campus and throughout California who have called for divestment from companies supporting the Israeli military and settlements as a non-violent path to end the Israeli occupation.

Your second reason is also patently untrue. The non-violent BDS campaign has taken no stance on what kind of state Israel could or should be.  The many participants in this campaign hold a range of views on this matter.

You ask why the students are not critical of Syria, or Russia, or Brazil: The primary reason is that there are currently no companies in the portfolio of the CSU endowment supporting a foreign belligerent occupation or illegal settlements by those governments. A number of students supporting the BDS resolution are indeed concerned about human rights abuses in other countries and are critical of policies of any number of governments, but the call for divestment from these particular companies has come from scores of Palestinian NGOs representing those who are being oppressed by a particular state.  To say that the students, or this campaign, are “picking” on Israel is disingenuous at best.  In fact, Israel is the only country in the world on behalf of which U.S. political leaders – and university administrators – engage in suppression of the democratic rights of the American people by attempting to suppress this exercise of free speech.

Academic freedom means that academic life is not always comfortable.  Students often feel uncomfortable with views they do not agree with or that challenge them to re-think their previous beliefs.  That is the strong basis for academic freedom – that people learn how to disagree with one another and learn to re-evaluate their own views.

As strong defenders of academic freedom, we are appalled by your actions.  We call on you to make a statement defending free speech and academic freedom, even when it is about Israel. We call on you to refrain in future from trying to suppress students’ – or faculty and staff – right to freedom of speech.

We look forward to your response.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Lisa Rofel, Professor

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb, Associate Professor

California State University, San Bernardino

amuhtase@csusb.edu

Dennis Kortheuer

Emeritus Lecturer

California State University, Long Beach

Dennis. kortheuer@csulb.edu

Nancy Gallagher, Professor Emerita

Departments of History and Feminist Studies

University of California, Santa Barbara

Gallagher@history.ucsb.edu

cc: Chancellor Timothy White

CSU Long Beach Academic Senate Chair Norbert ​Schurer

CSU Statewide Academic Senate Chair Christine Miller

CSU Statewide Faculty Affairs Committee Chair Thomas Norman

President, California Faculty Association Jennifer Eagan

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

May 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment