California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Chancellor Gillman of UCI re protest on campus 18 May

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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July 13, 2016

Chancellor Howard Gillman

Office of the Chancellor

510 Aldrich Hall

Irvine, CA 92697-1900

via chancellor@uci.edu

Dear Chancellor Gilman,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics from different California institutions of higher education focused on protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, is writing to express its deep concern about your administration’s response to the protest that was organized by several UCI student groups on your campus on May 18, 2016. We join our colleagues at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) to bring to your attention the critical importance of protecting the academic freedom and first amendment rights of all the student groups involved in this protest and call on you to correct the seeming discriminatory treatment of one of the student groups involved in the May 18 protest.

Your statement to the UCI community on May 19, 2016, asserts that the actions of student protestors at the showing of a documentary on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had “crossed the line of civility.” We are concerned about the use of the word “civility”, especially in relation to its historical use or misuse in subjugating indigenous people and people of color in this country and beyond. How would one measure “civility” and according to which standards? And more importantly, does this mean that “uncivil” speech and the language of dissent is unprotected speech? Moreover, dissent is not the same as “uncivil” speech.  And “uncivil” speech is not the same as hate speech or violence.  Some might be made to feel uncomfortable by dissent but the university is precisely the place that should encourage debate, dissent and discussion of controversial matters.

It is also of great concern that your statement was made prior to a comprehensive and impartial investigation of this incident. As it was attested in a letter to you dated June 7, 2016, from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), whose chapter members had served as non-partisan volunteers and legal observers at the May 18th event,  “allegations by outside groups to the effect that the protesting students threatened attendees, blocked exits and otherwise engaged in threatening and dangerous behavior, were baseless.”  The detailed field notes from the National Lawyers Guild observers therefore suggest that your initial conclusions, reached less than 24 hours after the event and without any investigation, require a public reassessment.

We respect the university’s right to conduct a full, fair and impartial investigation into this incident. However, we are troubled by the fact that members of only one of the student groups involved in the protest, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), were singled out for disciplinary proceedings while several other student groups, including the local Jewish Voice for Peace and Black Lives Matter, participated with the SJP students in voicing their objections.  This raises the possibility that the SJP group has been singled out in a selective and discriminatory manner. We also question your administration’s decision to refer this incident along with the names of SJP-affiliated students to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. Again, this selective prosecution, instead of an independent internal investigation, further points to a discriminatory treatment of SJP students. We are deeply troubled that a potential criminalization of constitutionally protected peaceful protest activity will threaten the first amendment rights of all UCI students and have a chilling effect on dissenting voices.

As members of the academic community, we are shocked by the treatment that the students have received because of their participation in a campus protest activity.  We feel that universities must uphold and defend the principles of academic freedom and serve as sanctuaries for the free expression of ideas and opinions, however controversial. We recognize the rights of those who organized the screening of the documentary on May 18, 2016, and expect you to recognize the rights of the students who chose to engage in peaceful protest at the screening. University administrators should not be swayed by external interest groups and undermine the vigorous exchange that is essential to the preservation of free speech, the protection of academic freedom and the mission of our institutions of higher education.

As NLG has correctly pointed out in its letter “your public comments constitute a threat to the students’ due process rights and serve to sanction hostility against pro-Palestine and Black Lives Matter students, who are routinely subject to unprecedented levels of harassment and intimidation across the country, including on UC campuses.” We therefore call on you to retract your remarks to the campus community that the protesting students “crossed the line of civility.” We further call on you to publicly affirm that all students regardless of race, religion, or political beliefs, may exercise the right to protest and enjoy the right to a fair and impartial investigation when accused of serious infractions.  Finally, we urge you to retract the referral to the Orange County District Attorney’s office to investigate this incident, and we call on you to refrain from referring such incidents to law enforcement authorities in the future.

We look forward to your response,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita

Department of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

Sonhale@ucla.edu

Ahlam Muhtaseb

Professor of Communication Studies
Graduate Coordinator

Interim Director, Center for Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies
California State University, San Bernardino

amuhtase@csusb.edu

Lisa Rofel

Professor of Anthropology

Director, Center for Emerging Worlds

University of California, Santa Cruz

Vida Samiian

Professor of Linguistics

Director, Middle East Studies Program

Dean Emerita, College of Arts and Humanities

California State University Fresno

vidas@csufresno.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.

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter concerning Dr. Homa Hoodfar

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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June 14, 2016

To:  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o H.E. Mr. Gholamali Khoshroo
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017, USA
email: iran@un.int
fax: +1 (212) 867-7086

To: His Excellency Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani

Head of Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, Head of Judiciary

Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: +98 21 879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567

Email: larijani@ipm.ir

To:  The Honorable Dr. Hassan Rouhani

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

c/o His Excellency Gholam Ali Khoshroo, the Iranian Amabassador to the UN iran@un.int

Your Excellency,

We are writing to express our grave concern about the arrest and imprisonment of Dr. Homa Hoodfar.  We have been informed that she was arrested on June 6, 2016 and detained in Evin prison in Tehran.  We are writing as the leading academic freedom organization of California institutes of higher education.  We are California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** an organization of over 200 academics from over twenty universities and colleges in California.  We respond not only to academic freedom violations here in California, but also around the world.

As you no doubt know, Dr. Homa Hoodfar is a highly respected university professor and anthropologist at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where she has lived for thirty years. She is an internationally renowned and widely published scholar who studies a range of issues related to the role of women in Middle Eastern societies and their struggles.

We have been informed that Professor Hoodfar travelled to Iran in February this year to see her family. Shortly before she was to return home in March, she was arrested but released on bail. After being interrogated a number of times, Professor Hoodfar was once again summoned for interrogation on Monday, June 6 and then imprisoned without due process.

It is difficult to find any reason for Dr. Hoodfar’s arrest because she has never been involved in politics of any sort. She is an anthropologist who conducts ethnographic research across the Middle East. Furthermore, her research is known to be balanced, and several of her studies highlight the opportunities and high status that women have achieved in various Muslim countries, including Iran. This is the case, for example, for her recent work that discusses women volunteer health workers in Iran’s health system, as stated in the report Health Workers and Health Knowledge as Avenues of Empowerment.

 

Professor Hoodfar was among the pioneer scholars to highlight Muslim women’s public roles. Her writings have greatly contributed to challenging the stereotypic portrayals of Muslim women that were until recently prominent in Western scholarship.

We are deeply concerned about Dr. Hoodfar’s health.  She has a serious neurological condition that urgently needs attention.  She suffered a stroke last year.  She is badly in need of the medical attention that only her doctors in Canada can give her.  They have her medical records and are familiar with her medical history.

Furthermore, we have learned that she is not being allowed to see her lawyer or contact her family, and therefore her relatives have not been able to ensure she has the medication she needs for the neurological condition.

We therefore respectfully request that the Iranian authorities provide Dr. Hoodfar with immediate access to her family and lawyer; that she be supplied with the medication she needs; and that she have her passport and other documents returned so that she can return to Canada.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration on this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom**

Contact Persons:

Katherine King, Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Classics, University of California, Los Angeles. Phone: 310-822-2830; email  king@humnet.ucla.edu

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor and Professor Emerita of History, University of California, Santa Barbara.  Phone:  805-893-2993; email:  gallagher@history.ucsb.edu

Dr. Dennis Kortheuer, Emeritus. California State University, Long Beach.  Phone:  (310) 427-2265; email address:  Dkortheu@gmail.com

Sondra Hale, Research Professor and Professor Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles.  Phone: 310-836-5121; email: 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.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Pres. Hirshman, SDSU, re hate speech

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

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President Hirshman

San Diego State University

San Diego, CA

Dear President Hirshman,

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of over 200 scholars, is writing to express our deep concern about the hate speech plastered across your campus by the Horowitz (so-called) Freedom Center and your subsequent response.

It is absolutely essential to defend the students who are being attacked by such hate speech.  In this case, they happen to be students who are involved in Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association.  All of the students on your campus should be defended in their freedom of speech and their political views, especially when they are politically controversial.  These students’ speech is not the same as hate speech.  Criticism of the Israeli occupation is not the same as anti-Semitism, just as criticism of, for example, China, is not the same as racism against Chinese people.

The ramifications of this case go beyond the students directly targeted by the flyers, as it needs to be put in the context of a worsening climate for Muslim students across the country, and, of course, concerns fundamental rights to speak and be heard without fear of intimidation, harm, and discrimination.

It is of special concern to us that you have failed to respond to the over 80 faculty and staff who have written to you on this matter, urging you to condemn the hate speech in the Horowitz Center’s posters.

We urge you to respond with a strong defense of the university as a space of academic freedom.

On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom (cs4af),

Research Professor Sondra Hale,

Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

University of California, Los Angeles

sonhale@ucla.edu

Professor Lisa Rofel,

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

LROFEL@ucsc.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.

June 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment