AMCHA’S Responses to Antisemitic Activity at University of California Berkeley

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3. A student-taught, credit-bearing, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic course entitled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” is offered as one of the academic senate-approved DeCal courses at UC Berkeley 

  • INCIDENT: A student-taught, credit-bearing course entitled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” is offered as one of the academic senate-approved DeCal courses at UC Berkeley.  The course appears to violate the Regents Policy on Course Content, which specifically prohibits using the classroom “as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest” or for “political indoctrination.”Additionally, it seems that compliance with the Regents Policy is not even a requirement of the present procedure for vetting DeCal courses, allowing for the unbridled misuse of the classroom by politically-motivated instructors. A review of the syllabus of “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” reveals that the course’s objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government’s criteria for antisemitism, and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it:
  • 9/13/16 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA organized a letter signed by 43 groups. The letter stressed that of the 194 DeCal courses taught the semester, this course was the only one that is blatantly politically motivated and directed and expressed concern that at no stage of the process is a course ever evaluated for its compliance with the Regents Policy. The letter asked Chancellor Dirks to: 1) Publicly affirm his commitment to enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content in the vetting of all courses taught by students and faculty at UCB. 2) Direct the staff responsible for the DeCal program to ensure that compliance with the Regents Policy is part of the checklists required of student instructors, faculty advisors and department chairs. 3) Direct the UCB Academic Senate to ensure that all future courses reviewed by COCI, whether taught by students or faculty, must be carefully evaluated for their compliance with the Regents Policy on Course Content.
  • 9/13/16 – UC BERKELEY’S RESPONSE: Chancellor Dirks’ office replies with a letter that the course has been suspended pending further review. The letter stated, “It has been determined that the facilitator for the course in question did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the Decal program. As a result, the proposed course did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards before it was opened for enrollment to students. For that reason, approval for the course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process. It should also be noted that the Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science is very concerned about the offering of any course, even a student-run course, which espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing rather than an opportunity for the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known for. ” The letter further stressed that “UC Berkeley will continue to confront intolerance, bias, and the campus fully supports the Regents recently issued Principles Against Intolerance.”
  • 9/13/16 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA organized a thank you letter signed by the same 43 groups. The letter stated, “Thank you so much for your leadership in taking swift and decisive action by suspending the egregiously biased DeCal course, “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis,” pending further review. We also heartily commend the Executive Dean of Letters and Science for her acknowledgement that “any course which espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing” is contrary to “the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known for.” We urge you to take additional steps to ensure that this sort of political indoctrination finds no home in the UC Berkeley classroom. Specifically, we ask that the review process for this course, and all new courses at UC Berkeley, explicitly include compliance with the UC Regents Policy on Course Content.”

2.  UC Berkeley Lecturer Hatem Bazian posts an announcement of an “International Day of Action,” calls for civil disobedience

  • INCIDENT: Dr. Hatem Bazian, a UC Berkeley lecturer in Near Eastern Studies, has posted to his Facebook page an announcement of an “International Day of Action on College Campuses: Free Palestine and End the Siege on Gaza,” to take place on September 23. The event is a “call for activists and organizations on campuses across the world to organize massive protests on every college and university campus. Make Free Palestine and Ending the Siege on Gaza part of campus education by holding teach-ins, rallies, sit-ins, civil disobedience, and push for BDS activities.”
  • 9/2/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks which included fourteen other groups – Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi), Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, National Conference on Jewish Affairs, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Lawfare Project, Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked Chancellor Dirks to “monitor the behavior of SJP and other student organizations involved in the September 23 Day of Action, and ensure, through the use of campus police and administrative oversight, that behavior which violates university policy or the law will be swiftly and appropriately addressed, and that Jewish and pro-Israel students will not be harassed, intimidated, bullied or assaulted.”
  • 9/5/14 – UC BERKELEY RESPONSE: Assistant Vice Chancellor Don Mogulof responds to AMCHA Initiative’s letter, and states that the “Dean of Students has reached out to every single one of our twenty two student groups that have some sort of connection to the Middle East. In his discussions with the members of these organizations he will be stressing the importance of our Principles of Community, ensure they know where to turn with questions, or in the event they witness or experience threatening deeds or words.”

1.  UAW 2865 Releases Statement of Intent to Support Antisemitic BDS Movement and Bring Propaganda to Classroom

  • INCIDENT: The 83-member joint council of UAW 2865 – representing all of the TA’s, tutors and readers at the 9 teaching campuses of the University of California –issued a statement outlining the union’s intent to support the anti-Israel and antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and to seek a full-membership vote on the statement this coming year. The nine teaching campuses include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. In the statement, the union exclaimed the need to “educate” others on the “settler-colonial” and “apartheid” nature of the Jewish state.
  • 8/12/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC President Napolitano which included eleven other groups – Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Lawfare Project and Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked President Napolitano to ensure antisemitic propaganda and BDS are not brought into UC classrooms by the Union of Student Workers.
  • thumbs-up 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr responds to the coalition with a letter, confirming that the “University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Conduct, referenced in your letter.” The letter further states, “We will ask the campuses to remind all the ASE’s about these policies and their obligation to adhere to them.”
  • thumbs-up 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr sends a letter to all 9 Chancellors, which states, “Attached is a letter from Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative, raising concerns about academic student employees (ASE) supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in classrooms. In the last several weeks, we have received over a hundred emails similar to Ms. Benjamin’s. You may have received such inquiries as well. Since we have had queries from your campuses about this issue, I am writing to clarify that the University’s position as to the conduct of ASEs in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the following…” The letter further listed the Policy on Course Content, Management and Academic Rights, Academic Freedom, and the Faculty Code of Conduct.
  • 10/7/14 – AMCHA & COALITION THANK YOU LETTER RESPONSE: AMCHA and coalition respond to Provost Dorr’s positive actions with a letter expression gratitude, including stating, “We were very concerned that this would happen with UC teaching assistants, and are therefore grateful that you confirmed: “The University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Content”. In addition, we greatly appreciate that you sent a letter notifying every UC Chancellor of the need to inform ASE’s that they are obligated to adhere to several university policies which prohibit them from using their instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel. These policies were established for a reason, and we appreciate your reminding the Chancellors to uphold them.”
  • 12/8/14 – AMCHA & 21 ORGANIZATIONS PROACTIVELY WRITE UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO AND UC PROVOST DORR: Following the UAW 2865 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) vote on December 4 2014, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy groups wrote to inquire of UC President Napolitano and UC Provost Dorr whether University of California (UC) policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, propaganda in the classroom also apply to UC faculty.
  • 12/11/14 – ASSEMBLYMEMBER BLOOM WRITES TO UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: Out of concern for Jewish and pro-Israel students, Assemblymember Bloom sent a letter to UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents which stated in part: “I greatly appreciate that Provost Dorr took the time to explicity remind all chancellors that the Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits UAW graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel propaganda in the classroom. Earlier this week, in a letter authored by Tammi Benjamin of AMCHA, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy organizations wrote to you asking if the Regents Policy on Course Content also applies to UC faculty. I join in asking that question. The classroom must be a place where all views are welcomed and all students feel they can have a voice. The classroom should not be a soapbox for a professor’s political advocacy.”
  • 12/18/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS WRITE 9 UC CHANCELLORS: Following the passage of the adoption of BDS by UAW 2865, AMCHA Initiative and 21 other education, civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter to nine University of California (UC) Chancellors urging them to publicly state their commitment to upholding UC policies which prohibit academic student employees (ASEs) from using their instructional positions to promote a boycott of Israel. The letter concludes by stating, “We therefore call on each of you to issue a public statement affirming your commitment to strictly enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content and to ensuring that Jewish and pro-Israel students have access to a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment.”
  • thumbs-up 12/19/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: In response to a letter sent from the AMCHA-led coalition of 22 groups on December 8, 2014 asking if the UC policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS in the classroom also apply to UC faculty, Provost Dorr responded by stating, “I understand from your letter that you are concerned that UC faculty may promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the classroom and that you are seeking clarification as to whether the Regents Policy on Course Content applies to UC faculty members.  In response to your question, the Regents Policy on Course Content does apply to UC faculty members.”
  • 12/22/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS THANK PROVOST DORR: The AMCHA-led coalition thanked University of California (UC) Provost Aimee Dorr and UC administrators for protecting the well-bring of Jewish students, stating “Thank you very much for your response to our letter …We are…extremely grateful for your acknowledgement that the Regents Policy on Course Content, which prohibits the misuse of the classroom for the advance of partisan interests and political indoctrination, applies equally to graduate student instructors and faculty. We also appreciate that you copied all of the UC Chancellors on your response, and we hope that in light of your very clear statement, administrators on each campus will strictly enforce the Regents Policy on Course Content in the case of both graduate student instructors and faculty, thereby ensuring that all students — including Jewish and pro-Israel students — have access to a quality learning environment that is safe and non-discriminatory.”