AMCHA Co-Founders Send Letter to CSU General Counsel Regarding the Illegality of Professor’s Anti-Semitic Website

From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin <tammi@amchainitiative.org>
Date: 
October 29, 2012
To: 
chelwick@calstate.edu
Cc: California State University leaders, State Assembly members, and California Jewish Community Leaders
Subject: a question about CSU Professors and state law

Dear CSU General Counsel Helwick,

As faculty members at the University of California who have been investigating and documenting anti-Jewish bigotry on California public university campuses for the last several years, we would like to ask you a legal question whose answer is of great importance to members of the California Jewish community as well as to our state legislators.

By way of background, we highlight two recent statements reiterating CSU’s commitment to ensuring that no university resources are used for political purposes:

  • In commenting on the behavior of a CSU Monterey Bay professor who used his class email list to encourage students to vote “Yes” on Proposition 30, a matter which is the subject of a recent law suit against that campus, you are quoted in the 10/18/12 LA Times and several other news outlets as saying:

“We have previously reminded faculty and staff that it is not permissible to use state resources including classroom time for any political advocacy. This email [encouraging students to vote “Yes” on Prop 30] clearly crossed that line and the campus is taking appropriate personnel action.”

  • Last month, in an email which CSU Sacramento President Charles W. Gossett sent to all of that campus’ faculty to remind them that they are prohibited from using class resources to promote political activity, including Proposition 30, he wrote:

“Please bear in mind that under Cal. Gov. Code Section 8314, it is unlawful for any state employee to use or permit others to use state resources for a campaign activity.”

It is important to point out that the California statute which is cited above, and which clearly forms the basis for the CSU policy which you mentioned, states in relevant part:

“It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”

Please note that under this statute, it is equally unlawful for a state employee to use public resources for a “campaign activity” or for “personal” purposes.

Our legal question to you involves what we believe is a similar violation of Cal. Gov. Code Section 8314 and CSU policy by CSU Northridge Mathematics Professor David Klein.  For more than three years, Prof. Klein has been using the CSUN web server to host a web page entitled “Boycott Israel Resource Page,” which promotes the economic, academic, and cultural boycott of Israel and encourages readers to engage in political activism against the Jewish state, including the lobbying of local and state elected officials “to divest from and enforce sanctions on Israel.”  Prof. Klein’s web page also contains a litany of false, inflammatory statements and photographs intended to incite hatred against the Jewish state and its supporters. Many of these statements meet the U. S. Department of State’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, such as the statement that “Israel is the most racist country in the world,”  and the pictures of mutilated dead babies that appear on the page, with the clear implication that Israeli soldiers have murdered them, are classic examples of the medieval anti-Semitic “blood libel”, i.e. that Jews kill non-Jewish children for evil purposes.  In addition, Prof. Klein has included on his CSUN-hosted web page links to two defamatory articles about one of us (Tammi Rossman-Benjamin), in which Rossman-Benjamin is accused of being a fascist, a Nazi-sympathizer, and a “junk academic.”

Given that Klein is a professor of Mathematics with no teaching, research or scholarly activities in the academic fields of political science, the Middle East, Israel or Zionism, it is clear that his “Boycott Israel” web page in no way serves the academic mission of the University or the terms of his employment, but is rather intended to advance Prof. Klein’s own political and personal hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters.  In using public resources (the CSUN web server)  to advance his personal and political goals, we believe that Prof. Klein is in clear violation of both CSU policy and state law.

In light of your judgment in the case of a CSU professor using his university email to promote Prop 30 to his students, that “it is not permissible to use state resources including classroom time for any political advocacy,”  we request that you answer the following question:

Is it permissible under Cal. Gov. Code 8314 and CSU policy for Prof. Klein to use the CSUN web server to advance his personal and political goals? 

We are copying this email to leaders of the California Jewish community as well as members of the California State Assembly, who in August unanimously approved a resolution condemning campus anti-Semitism and recommending that university administrators ensure that no state resources be used to promote it.  These State Assembly members and Jewish leaders are undoubtedly concerned about Klein’s egregious misuse of public resources to promote his anti-Semitic web page and eager to know whether you believe that state law and university policy apply equally to this matter.  We hope you will copy them on your response to us.

We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Sincerely,

Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Leila@AMCHAinitiative.org

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Tammi@AMCHAinitiative.org

 

CC:
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed
Incoming CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White
CSU Board of Trustees
CSU Presidents
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California State Assembly members
California Jewish community leaders