HUNDREDS OF FACULTY & ADVOCACY ORGS: UC INSTRUCTORS ABUSING UNIVERSITY TO PROMOTE ANTI-SEMITIC, ANTI-ZIONIST POLITICAL MOVEMENT
UC Berkeley course shines spotlight on corruption
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, November 1, 2016 – More than 175 faculty members and 47 religious, civil rights, education and research organizations representing thousands of concerned students, parents and alumni today wrote to the top official at the University of California, UC President Janet Napolitano, demanding she stop faculty from using the classroom as a pulpit for anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist political advocacy and activism.
Recent approval of a blatantly one-sided and politically-motivated anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic course at UC Berkeley and a similar course offered last year at UC Riverside, “…suggest that the faculty members responsible for overseeing course content, particularly at the departmental level, are failing to exercise due diligence in reviewing and approving courses either because they share the anti-Zionist political perspective of the proselytizing instructors and faculty and condone the promotion of that perspective in the classroom, or because they hope to avoid the controversy that rejecting the courses could initiate,” wrote the advocates.
The faculty and groups pointed out that on many UC campuses, entire departments, including department chairs tasked with approving courses, are dominated by instructors who have publicly endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities and scholars, and regularly use university funds and academic programming to promote BDS, a movement that world leaders, scholars of anti-Semitism and virtually the entire Jewish community recognize as anti-Semitic.
“UC students have long shared personal anecdotes of teachers who engage in anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic advocacy and activism in the classroom,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benajmin, AMCHA’s director and a UC faculty member. “However, the corruption is now public and can no longer be ignored.”
After 43 of these groups wrote to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at the start of the current semester to raise concerns that the UC Berkeley course violated UC’s Regents Policy on Course Content, the university decided to temporarily suspend the course for re-review. However, after the department chair, the person responsible for course approval in her department, dismissively denied the course had a political agenda or that it crossed the line from education to indoctrination, it was reinstated. “We find it hard to believe that a course with an obviously one-sided anti-Israel reading list, exclusively anti-Israel guest speakers, and a clear intent to justify the elimination of the State of Israel is considered to be consistent with Regents Policy,” wrote the faculty and groups to Napolitano today. The Regents Policy on Course Content explicitly prohibits the classroom from being used for partisan interest or political indoctrination.
A similar process played out at UC Riverside last year even after a non-partisan, non-profit group that analyzes the educational accuracy and objectivity of classroom curricula determined the course in question was politically-driven propaganda and indoctrination, and had no educational value. Verity Educate concluded that “the core academic and educational values of knowledge acquisition and critical thinking have been hijacked by a particular strain of political action, and specifically by a particular politically oriented activist organization.”
“We firmly believe in and strongly support the protections provided by the Constitution’s First Amendment for extramural expression by all university faculty members, even their right to express opinions and support causes that we find morally reprehensible or even anti-Semitic,” wrote the groups and faculty in the letter. “We object, however, when faculty members use their university positions and taxpayer resources to recruit for an anti-Semitic political movement, indoctrinate their students to support the elimination of the Jewish state, or allow their colleagues to do so. As the UC-wide Committee on Academic Freedom has made abundantly clear, professors ‘who abuse their position to indoctrinate students cannot claim the protection of academic freedom.’ ”
“The effects of this abuse extend beyond corruption of the academic mission,” pointed out the groups and faculty members. “Recent studies show that anti-Zionist expression, particularly the promotion of BDS, whether found on the campus quad or in the lecture hall, is strongly correlated with acts of anti-Jewish hostility, including assault, harassment, discrimination, suppression of speech, and displays of anti-Semitic graffiti and flyers (such as those seen recently at UC- Berkeley). Tellingly, these studies also show a very strong correlation between faculty who have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel and acts of anti-Jewish hostility. Schools with one or more faculty boycotters are four times more likely to be the scene of incidents targeting Jewish students for harm.”
The faculty and groups urged Napolitano to take two immediate steps:
- Describe how the Regents Policy on Course Content works in conjunction with the UC Policy on Academic Freedom and clarify when the “advancement of personal interest” and “political indoctrination” constitute misuse. According to UC Policy, indoctrination is not protected under academic freedom.
- Direct all UC Chancellors to urge faculty responsible for overseeing course content to ensure that all courses comply with the Regents Policy on Course Content.
A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to combating, monitoring and documenting anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.