Letter to Chancellor Wilcox regarding Academic Boycott event at UC Riverside

January 13, 2014

Dear Chancellor Wilcox,

We are writing to you regarding an antisemitic event about to occur on your campus.  Although sponsored by two UC Riverside academic units, this event will not be a legitimate expression of academic freedom but rather a violation of it, as consistent with recent public statements by UC President Janet Napolitano, the American Association of University Professors, the American Association of Universities, and more than 180 University leaders across the country.

It has recently been brought to our attention that the UCR College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) and Ethnic Studies Department are co-sponsoring a talk by Omar Barghouti entitled “Palestine’s South Africa moment: relative justice, not relative humans,” scheduled to take place this Tuesday, January 14, on your campus.  According to an email announcing the talk sent to the CHASS faculty and staff listserves, student attendance at the event can be used for official course credit, fulfilling “the Annual Theme requirement for CHASS Connect, CHASS TRAC, HASS001 and can be used as an event for HASS010.”

Although Omar Barghouti’s talk is being sponsored by an academic division and department, and students can fulfill course credit for attending it, Barghouti himself is neither a university professor nor an academic.  So why is Omar Barghouti being brought to speak at UCR? For one reason alone: his politics.  Omar Barghouti is the most well-known and outspoken founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the campaign from which all other academic boycotts of Israel derive, including the recent boycott of Israeli universities and scholars by the American Studies Association (ASA) and the resolution currently under consideration by the Modern Language Association (MLA).

It is important to point out that the sponsoring academic units — CHASS and the Ethnic Studies Department — have several faculty members who have publicly endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.  Indeed, of the eleven current UCR faculty members who have publicly endorsed the academic boycott of Israel, all but one are CHASS faculty:

Feras Abou Galala – BCOE, Electrical Engineering
Jayna Brown – CHASS, Ethnic Studies
Ofelia Cuevas – CHASS, Ethnic Studies
Jennifer Doyle – CHASS, English
Jodi Kim – CHASS, Ethnic Studies
David Lloyd – CHASS, English
Nicholas Mitchell – CHASS, Ethnic Studies
Dylan Rodriguez – CHASS, Ethnic Studies (Chair)
Setsu Shigamatsu – CHASS, Media and Cultural Studies, cooperating faculty in Ethnic Studies
Andrea Smith – CHASS, Media and Cultural Studies, cooperating faculty in Ethnic Studies
Devra Weber – CHASS, History, cooperating faculty in Ethnic Studies

Nine of the eleven (82%) UCR faculty members endorsing the academic boycott of Israel are members of, or cooperating faculty in the Ethnic Studies Department. (Astonishingly, one-third of the UCR Ethnic Studies Department’s active faculty members, including the department chair, have publicly endorsed the academic boycott of Israel).

Furthermore, two UCR faculty members — Feras Abou Galala and David Lloyd — are founding members of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, and David Lloyd is also an organizer of the recent American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel and a promoter of the boycott at the MLA convention last week.

It is abundantly clear that Omar Barghouti has been invited to UCR in order to promote the academic boycott of Israel, by UCR faculty who themselves seek to promote the academic boycott of Israel.

As you know, ASA’s boycott of Israeli universities and scholars has been roundly condemned by UC President Janet Napolitano, several academic associations including AAUP and AAU, and more than 180 other university leaders across the country, who have deemed the academic boycott of Israel a violation of academic freedom and antithetical to the very mission of the university.  Moreover, by singling out only one country in the world—Israel—for censure and abuse, while ignoring entrenched human rights abuses that are rampant throughout the Middle East, the movement exposes its antisemitic nature.

Therefore, it is inappropriate, and indeed a violation of both university policy and state law, for CHASS and Ethnic Studies faculty to use the name and resources of the University of California to promote an antisemitic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

We call on you to withdraw the university’s sponsorship of the upcoming lecture by Omar Barghouti.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Suzanne Singer
Riverside Temple Beth El

Rabbi Hillel Cohn
Rabbi Emeritus Congregation Emanuel, Redlands

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Leila Beckwith
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Cc: UC President Janet Napolitano
UC Regents
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California State Senator Richard D. Roth  (Riverside)
California State Assembly Member Jose Medina  (Riverside)
California Jewish Leaders