AMCHA responds to CSUN President’s apology

From: Tammi Benjamin <tbenjami@ucsc.edu>
Date: December 12, 2011 12:09:35 PM PST
To: "Koester, Jolene" <jolene.koester@csun.edu>
Cc: creed@calstate.edu, Harold L Hellenbrand <harry.hellenbrand@csun.edu>,lhernandez@calstate.edugovernor@governor.ca.gov,
lt.governor@ltgov.ca.gov,Speaker.Perez@assembly.ca.gov,ttorlakson@cde.ca.gov,
brad.sherman@mail.house.gov,alex.padilla@sen.ca.govdarrell.steinberg@sen.ca.gov,
assemblymember.fuentes@assembly.ca.gov,mayor@lacity.orgcouncilmember.garcetti@lacity.org
Subject: Re: Message of apology

Dear President Koester (and Chancellor Reed),

While I appreciate your apology (below), I am very disappointed that you have not yet addressed the serious concerns that so many members of the Jewish community have raised regarding Professor David Klein’s anti-Semitic webpages. We continue to believe that these webpages are in violation of CSUN policy and contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students on your campus, and that the University has not only the right but the responsibility of seeing that they are removed from the CSUN server.

I am well aware that the University has a track record of dealing with controversial web material posted by CSUN faculty, which demonstrates a willingness to enforce University policy and to publicly condemn web material deemed offensive. For example, in April 2010 your office received complaints about a CSUN professor of economics, who was using a NON-university website to promote sexual tourism in Thailand.  A few dozen emails and a petition signed by 200 individuals called on you to demand that the professor remove his website or be fired from the university. At that time, your office announced that you would not intervene or discipline the professor as long as his extracurricular activities did not involve public resources such as university equipment, and neither CSUN nor the professor was named on the site.  Nevertheless, CSUN Provost Harry Hellenbrand publicly expressed his opinion that the website had a “deleterious effect” on the reputation of the University and sent a statement to the entire CSUN community saying, “Our commitment to gender equity compels us to see the site as offensive.”

If this is how the President’s office responds to a professor who does NOT violate University policy, how much more forcefully should your office respond to David Klein, a professor who has used the CSUN server, his own name, and the University’s good name to post anti-Semitic material and promote a campaign to harm the Jewish state?  Yet despite the fact that Professor Klein’s webpages have raised a major outcry from the Jewish community — including from CSUN students, faculty, and parents — you have refused to either enforce University policy, which is crystal clear about this matter, or to condemn Professor Klein’s anti-Semitic webpages as a violation of the values and principles of the University. It appears that your administration is guilty of an egregious double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish bigotry.

I am also well aware that 37 CSUN faculty members have signed Professor Klein’s letter calling for the cancellation of the CSU Israel Abroad program, a letter which includes defamatory claims that Israel is an “apartheid” and “racist” state, and implies that Israeli soldiers routinely murder U.S. citizens, including students. Among the signatories of Professor Klein’s letter are 5 CSUN administrators: the University Provost (Harry Hellenbrand, who is copied on this email), the Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Dean of the College of Science and Math, the Dean of the College of Humanities, and the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. I question whether the University’s actions regarding Professor Klein’s webpages are influenced by the fact that the administrators who would be responsible for condemning and removing the webpages have themselves demonstrated personal animosity towards the Jewish state.

Finally, I am aware that you are retiring as CSUN President, and even though this matter occurred under your tenure, you will no longer have the authority to resolve it, leaving thousands of members of the Jewish community upset and aggrieved.

I therefore call on Chancellor Reed to exercise his authority to ensure that Professor Klein’s anti-Semitic webpages are removed, and that all expressions of anti-Jewish bigotry on CSU campuses are acknowledged and addressed.

Sincerely,

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Lecturer University of California, Santa Cruz

CC:  Chancellor Charles Reed
CSUN Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Harold Hellenbrand
Board of Trustees
California Governor Jerry Brown
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom
California Speaker of the Assembly John A. Perez
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
Congressman Brad Sherman
California State Senator Alex Padilla
California State Senator Darrell Steinberg
California State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes
Los Angeles Mayor  – Antonio Villaraigosa
Los Angeles City Council President

BCC: For wide circulation

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On Dec 9, 2011, at 3:29 PM, Koester, Jolene wrote:

Dear Ms. Benjamin:

I apologize that you received in error an email from me containing the message “too bad.” I am away from the office and dealing with email from afar. I had intended to forward your response letter to University staff, and instead of pressing “forward,” I inadvertently hit “reply.”

The comment “too bad” was meant to express to internal staff regret about the controversy and the distress it has caused. It was not a comment directed at you or others who have written to share their concerns, and was not intended to disrespect or dismiss either you or your point of view. I apologize and deeply regret the misunderstanding this error has caused.

Jolene Koester