California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Chancellor Gillman about harassment of students in support of Palestinian rights at UCI

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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June 12, 2017

Chancellor Howard Gillman

Office of the Chancellor

510 Aldrich Hall

Irvine, CA 92697-1900

via chancellor@uci.edu

Dear Chancellor Gillman,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, ** a group of over 200 scholars in California institutions of higher education, write to object to a demonstrated bias on your part against students engaging in support for Palestinian rights and the climate of fear and mistrust it has spawned at UC Irvine. This ongoing problem has most recently been evidenced by your complete lack of any mention, never mind concern expressed, over the aggressive presence and even intimidation of UCI students engaging in their constitutionally protected speech against the Israeli Occupation by a group of self-described “active military reservists” of the Israeli Army (otherwise known as Israeli Defense Forces or IDF), who came onto your campus on May 8-11, 2017.

As documented by publicly available video shot by protesters as well as interviews with students, these Israeli “Reservists on Duty,” none of whom is a member of the UCI community, not only came onto the UCI campus to protest the UCI students’ yearly “Apartheid Week” event; but they verbally harassed, disrupted, intimidated, physically threatened and silenced the students engaging in their protected activities.

What’s more, the soldiers clearly represent the military of a foreign government, and are part of a sophisticated and government-directed military effort by the state of Israel to silence criticism of the Israeli occupation by sending these soldiers onto U.S. campuses.

These military representatives of Israel harassed these students not just once but for four days, for hours each day. According to eye witness reports, these Israeli military representatives filmed students, called the Palestinian students terrorists, and repeatedly made racist and misogynist comments to all the students engaged in actions addressing Palestinian rights.

During this time, your campus security personnel and administrative officials stood by and did nothing to protect the rights of your students.  You are now threatening to discipline the victims of this harassment for challenging their harassers about their actions at a public event.

We cannot avoid contrasting your lack of any support for the students with your sending out a letter to the entire UCI community and the public, on May 19 of last year, after a peaceful and entirely lawful protest by Jewish, Arab/Muslim and African American student groups against a pro-IDF film, in which you accused the protesters of having “crossed the line” from civility and repeated unfounded—and quickly disproved—accusations of harassing attendees of the film. We note further that in this case you not only spread false accusations without engaging in any due diligence, but that you never issued a retraction, never mind apology, when it became clear that the accusations were false, and instead actually proceeded with disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian (but not the Jewish or African American) student group in response. The comparison between your response to that protest and complete lack of public response to this one is glaring and strongly suggests a bias not just against students who support Palestinian rights but against Arab/Muslim students in particular.

We imagine that if another foreign power, say for example, China, sent soldiers or military representatives onto your campus to aggressively and threateningly silence protests about Taiwan independence, Tibetan rights, or democracy, or Russia sent military representatives to silence protests about their occupation of Crimea, you would respond publicly to assure the students of the support of the Administration.  Yet you fail to respond to actions that if not legally actionable, are certainly unethical and immoral and threaten the well-being of students.

You are willing to go against longstanding rulings on academic freedom and the U.S. Constitution’s defense of free speech rights and to put your students in the way of physical and emotional harm. This is potentially legally actionable behavior.

We call on you to defend all of your students’ rights to free speech and to a safe campus.  We ask that you take immediate action to address this ongoing harassment, to drop any charges against the victims, and to put in place campus procedures that do not allow military representatives of foreign powers come onto campus in order to threaten UCI students.

We look forward to your response.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Professor Lisa Rofel

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.edu

Professor Dennis Kortheuer

emeritus,

Cal State University Long Beach

dennis.kortheuer@csulb.edu

Sondra Hale, Research Professor

Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies, UCLA

sonhale@UCLA.edu

**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.

Cc: President Janet Napolitano, University of California Office of the President

Chancellor Dirks, UC Berkeley

Chancellor Kim Wilcox, UC Riverside

Chancellor Henry Yang, UC Santa Barbara​

Chancellor Gene Block, UCLA

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego

Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, UCSC

Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter, UC Davis

Chancellor Dorothy Leland, UC Merced

Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC San Francisco

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June 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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