Letter from AMCHA co-founders to UC Regents regarding statement of UCLA Committee on Academic Freedom

The Regents of the University of California
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

July 22, 2012

Dear Regents of the University of California,

On July 9, the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) issued a letter to UCLA Professor David Delgado Shorter, which stated, in relevant part, that it was the committee’s determination that Professer Shorter had violated no University policies in promoting the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on his official class website (see HERE and HERE), a campaign which Professor Shorter himself has publicly endorsed. Indeed, the UCLA CAF stated that “such advocacy” was “consistent with professional standards” and therefore protected by the UC rules of academic freedom.

We are outraged and appalled that a UCLA academic senate committee has given its official endorsement to Professor Shorter’s use of his class website to promote the academic boycott of Israel, for the following reasons:

  • Professor Shorter’s class web pages are in clear violation of several UC policies, including the Regents Policy on Course Content, which states that the misuse of the classroom for “political indoctrination” constitutes misuse of the University as an institution. Shorter’s promotion of the academic boycott of Israel on his UCLA class website is also a violation of California Education Code 92000, which prohibits the use of the name of any UC campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.
  • The academic boycott of Israel promoted on Shorter’s UCLA webpages was adamantly opposed by the American Association of University Professors and denounced by 446 American University Presidents, including the Chancellors of UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCSD, and UCLA, who called the boycott of Israeli Universities “utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.”
  • The founders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have openly stated that their ultimate goal is the dismantling of the Jewish state, and Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has called their campaign anti-Semitic. Indeed, the Jewish community remembers the Nazi boycott of thousands of Jewish academics as a prelude to the slaughter of 6 million Jews, and we recognize all boycotts of Israel as deliberate assaults on the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Last Friday, many UC-affiliated taxpayers received an email from Larry Salinas, Associate Director of Institutional Relations for UC State Governmental Relations, promoting Proposition 30, which asks taxpayers to voluntarily accept a significant tax increase in order to fund California public education, including the University of California.

However, we and many members of the California Jewish community are rapidly losing confidence in your ability to ensure that our tax dollars are not going to fund the misuse of public resources for the promotion of anti-Jewish bigotry. Until this serious problem is addressed, we cannot in good conscience vote for an increase in our taxes to support the University of California.

We urge you to do the following in order to help restore our trust in the University of California:

1. Publicly affirm the importance of the UC Regents Policy on Course Content, which states:

“They (The Regents) are responsible to ensure that public confidence in the University is justified. And they are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”

2. Call on the UC-wide academic senate and all campus academic senates to outline how they will enforce this Regents Policy.

We are sending a copy of this letter to you by U.S. registered mail, as well as hard copies to the university, state and federal leaders copied on this email. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

If we do not hear from you, we will interpret your silence as an affirmation of the UCLA CAF’s statement and a sanctioning of institutional anti-Semitism at the University of California.

Sincerely,

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

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

Cc:
University of California President Mark Yudof
University of California Chancellors
California Governor Jerry Brown
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom
California Speaker of the Assembly John A. Perez
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California Senator Fran Pavley (UCLA)
California Senator Ted W. Lieu (UCLA)
California Senator Curren D. Price, Jr. (UCLA)
California Assembly Member Holly J. Mitchell (UCLA)
California Assembly Member Mike Feuer (UCLA)
United States Congressman Howard Berman
United States Congressman Brad Sherman

Bcc:
Members and supporters of the Jewish community