Dear Chancellor Yang,
I am writing to express my concern for your signing—along with the nine other UC Chancellors—a letter drafted by UC President Janet Napolitano, dated April 19, 2016, urging members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) not to ratify a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions (http://media.wix.com/ugd/c9faad_06c5dd0abb8a4e9d92200e81819089f0.pdf). I am fully aware of the fact that along with many other universities, the University of California, in the person of its president (Policy 1300) has already expressed its opposition to “academic boycotts” in the past, and has the right to do so. I question, however, both the inclusion of Chancellors in signing this letter, the lack of any consultation with UC faculty about its content and/or the wisdom of sending it, and, most importantly, the timing of it.
If Policy 1300 does give our President the right “to speak for the University,” this right comes to her from the Regents, and it presumably refers to all matters of administrative and public representation of the University as an institution. On the other hand, the University of California also has a long-standing tradition and commitment to shared governance especially when it comes to questions impacting academic matters. The two principles are clearly at odds with each other and it is therefore a delicate matter of interpretation and political acumen for a President to decide when it is appropriate to speak on behalf of the University. The fact that President Napolitano asked all ten Chancellors to sign her letter indicates in my mind that she was not certain of having the authority to send that letter and therefore sought to buttress her right by involving the Chancellors. At a time in which shared governance has been eroded for several years in the system, it is particularly disturbing to witness this instrumental use of authority and lack of consultation with UC Senates and faculty on matters of great concern to the faculty.
I am not referring to the actual merits of the academic boycott under consideration by members of the AAA, but to the very serious interference with the voting of a resolution by members of a scholarly association who are employed or may be employed by our university. It is one thing to speak for or against resolutions taken by scholarly associations in favor of the academic boycott of Israeli Universities, as it was the case with the American Studies Association in 2013. The protest came after the vote had taken place, and, whether one agrees with it or not, it did not interfere with the actual voting procedures. To send a letter that explicitly claims that “the University of California believes that an academic boycott is an inappropriate response to a foreign policy issue and one that threatens academic freedom and sets a damaging precedent for academia,” and therefore “urge(s) Association members to consider the boycott’s potentially harmful impacts and oppose this resolution,” is not only misrepresentative of the percentage of UC-system scholars who support the boycott, but also a far cry from the right to public critique and the defense of academic freedom invoked in the letter. For an institution that hires the members of an association to urge them to vote one way or another is at best interference, and at worse intimidation.
With all due respect I hope you will consider consulting at least with the head of the Academic Senate next time you are invited by UCOP to sign a letter on behalf of UCSB.
Supported by the UC Santa Barbara Faculty Association
Dear Chancellor Wilcox,
We write to acknowledge receipt of a letter regarding the current vote of the American Anthropological Association on a resolution to endorse the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The letter was signed by Janet Napolitano, President of the UC system, and the Chancellors of all eleven campuses, including yourself.
We are dismayed that you should have appended your signature to such a document, particularly in the absence of any consultation whatsoever with faculty most affected by such an unwarranted intervention in the democratic processes of an academic association. We consider your signing this letter a breach of the principles of faculty governance in areas that concern the fundamental rights of faculty to guide academic policy and standards, including our right to determine freely our association with other scholars and institutions. Issued during the ongoing process of the vote with the imprimatur of administrative authority, moreover, the letter can only seem to be an attempt to influence and even intimidate faculty on your campus and to deter them from voting for this resolution.
By contrast, the AAA has engaged in a three-year democratic process in coming to this vote, including a major Association Task Force investigation and report. Furthermore, the vote is taking place in accordance with the Association’s bylaws and procedures. You should not be participating in this effort to chill or to influence this vote, the AAA process, and the voices of the AAA membership.
We are particularly dismayed by your appending your signature to this document at a time when, as you well know, our campus, like so many others, has been injured by Islamophobic incidents and anti-Palestinian vandalism. Even before the incidents that took place this spring, UCR students and faculty had reported to your office various attacks on their integrity, on their right to determine the content and conduct of their classes, and even on their right to host speakers. The broader climate of Islamophobia has had a chilling effect on our very own students and campus community. Reported incidents of discrimination and hate bias towards Muslim and Middle Eastern students are five times higher than last year. Additionally, in UCR’s campus climate survey, 70% of Muslim students reported they experience exclusionary conduct on this campus due to their religious affiliation. As on other campuses, these incidents have been propelled by outside organizations and have not stopped short of defaming and misrepresenting students and faculty publicly and with an intent to intimidate. Still, your office has yet to issue a public statement that openly names such incidents and forthrightly condemns them. Officials on other campuses have responded in such a forthright manner, and we continue to expect you to do so also.
Instead, you have signed on to a letter that in our view not only violates principles of faculty governance, but also encourages and licenses the very organizations that have been harassing students and faculty whose only offense is to believe that the sphere of justice is not determined by donors or university officials and who believe that the academic freedom and human rights of Palestinians is no less worthy of protection from constant and systematic violation than our own.
To our knowledge, such a letter, signed by all UC chancellors as well as the UC President, is unprecedented, suggesting that it is itself a response to outside pressure. The attempt by the UC administration and its board of regents to suppress campus-wide movements for social justice is, however, not unprecedented. The President and the Regents long opposed the movement to divest from South African apartheid, a movement now widely regarded as having contributed to the ending of a manifest and ugly injustice. We believe that the current uncalled-for interference in the democratic deliberations of a scholarly body is an equally disgraceful act of hypocrisy, presenting the pretense of moral admonishment and respect for academic freedom while in fact violating both freedom and morality.
We urge you to rescind your signature from this letter and to commit yourself to future consultation with faculty before pronouncing unilaterally on matters that affect our affairs and prerogatives so nearly.
David Lloyd, Department of English and AAA member
Christine Gailey, Department of Anthropology and AAA member
And 26 other signatories
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
April 25, 2016
Dear President Napolitano and the Chancellors of the University of California:
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of over 200 faculty, strongly object to your attempts to interfere in the academic freedom of the 10,000 members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as they vote on whether to ratify a resolution calling on the AAA to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
Whether or not an academic boycott is an appropriate response to concerns over Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, it is not the place of university administrators to weigh in on positions taken by academic associations. Nor is it the place of university presidents and chancellors to interfere in the voting procedures by which professional scholarly associations decide on their mandates. Your uncalled for interference is also likely to be perceived as an act of intimidation by both anthropologists who already work in the UC system and those who might be interested in joining our faculty in the future.
In addition, we strongly object to your failure to consult with your respective faculty Senates on the wisdom of sending this letter. Rather than acting unilaterally, failing to honor the tradition of shared governance in the UC system, and interfering with scholarly associations, you should be affirming the academic freedom of scholars in the UC system, in the United States more generally, and elsewhere to engage in political statements and actions. Such political actions and statements may include boycotts, which are a time-honored, effective, and legitimate form of political speech and action.
Your letter speaks in defense of academic freedom. This is precisely what the AAA is engaged in: asserting the right and academic freedom of its members to vote on a proposal for the Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, in response to their involvement in Israeli state violations of Palestinian human and civil rights, as well as restriction of Palestinian scholars’ and students’ academic freedom.
Anthropology is a profession that focuses on international issues, including how global inequalities affect the lives of marginalized peoples. The AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states: “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation.” Indeed, the AAA membership has endorsed numerous resolutions in defense of those rights, and the Association has a long record of taking stances against human rights abuses and has engaged in previous boycotts.
Prior to this vote, the AAA engaged in a three-year democratic process which included panels and conference discussions as well as a major Association Task Force investigation and peer-reviewed report. Furthermore, the vote is taking place in accordance with the Association’s bylaws and procedures. You should not be attempting to stifle this vote, the AAA process, and the voices of the AAA membership.
As leaders of our academic institutions, you have a responsibility to protect scholars’ rights to academic freedom and political action, including their right to vote for this resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,
Professor Nancy Gallagher
University of California, Santa Barbara
Professor Susan Slyomovics
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor Baki Tezcan,
University of California, Davis
Cc: Cc: Chancellor Howard Gillman, UC Irvine
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, UC Riverside
Chancellor Henry T. Yang UC Santa Barbara
Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks, UC Berkeley
Chancellor Gene Block, UC Los Angeles
Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego
Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, UC Santa Cruz
Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis
Chancellor Dorothy Leland, UC Merced
Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC San Francisco
*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.*