Serious Concerns About Abuse of CSU Resources and Name

From: tammi@amchainitiative.org
Date: Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM PST
To: johnw@csufresno.edu, harry.hellenbrand@csun.edu, presidentsoffice@calpoly.edu, creed@calstate.edu
Cc: lhernandez@calstate.edu, senator.berryhill@senate.ca.gov, Assemblymember.Perea@assembly.ca.gov, assemblymember.halderman@assembly.ca.gov, senator.blakeslee@senate.ca.gov, assemblymember.achadjian@assembly.ca.gov, Senator.Padilla@sen.ca.gov, assemblymember.blumenfield@assembly.ca.gov
Subject: serious concerns about abuse of CSU resources and name

Dear President Welty, President Armstrong, President Hellenbrand, and Chancellor Reed:

We are co-founders of the AMCHA Initiative, a grassroots organization representing thousands of members and supporters of the California Jewish community, who are united in their concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish students on college and university campuses across the state. We would like to express our serious concerns about the upcoming talks by Ilan Pappe at California State University Northridge (CSUN) on February 20, at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) on February 22, and at California State University Fresno (CSUF) on February 23.

As you may know, Ilan Pappe is an Israeli Jew who harbors deep animus towards the Jewish state, has publicly called for its elimination, and engages in activities to harm its citizens, such as a campaign to boycott Israeli academics, which he helped to found.  In addition, he openly supports the terrorist organization Hamas and falsely accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity,” including “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”

Pappe has readily acknowledged that his “scholarship” is driven by his anti-Israel political agenda, and his historical writings have been repudiated by numerous eminent scholars of Israel and the Middle East. Moreover, much of the rhetoric Pappe uses to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state is anti-Semitic according to the working definition of anti-Semitism employed by the U.S. State Department, as is the academic boycott which he promotes in his talks and writings.

Although we are dismayed that Ilan Pappe is coming to speak at three CSU campuses, our concern is not with the events per se, but rather with the fact that these events are being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system, using the name, resources, and imprimatur of CSU, in order to vilify and harm the Jewish state and its supporters.

We will take each campus in turn:

At CSUF, the lecture is being organized by the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Vida Samiian, and sponsored by the Middle East Studies Department.  There is little doubt that Dean Samiian is organizing this event for the purposes of propagandizing rather than educating students at CSUF. Like Ilan Pappe, Dean Samiian has made her political animus towards Israel a matter of public record. For example, she has:

  • endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and helped organize and promote the Israel Divestment Campaign’s efforts to demand that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System divest from Israel; 
  • picketed to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles; and
  • signed CSU Northridge professor David Klein’s petition calling Israel an “apartheid” and “racist” state and demanding that Chancellor Reed rescind the CSU Israel Abroad program.

Moreover, from at least 2003, Vida Samiian has used her administrative office — first as Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and then as Dean — to organize and promote a number of events that presented only one, virulently anti-Israel perspective. Indeed, when Dean Samiian was approached by CSUF faculty and asked to allow an ideologically diverse panel to participate in the February 23rd event, she refused.

At Cal Poly, Pappe’s talk is being organized by History Professor Manzar Foroohar and sponsored by the History Department and the College of Liberal Arts.  In an email announcing the event, which Professor Foroohar sent to all faculty in the College of Liberal Arts, she asked them to announce Pappe’s talk in their classes and to encourage their students to attend.  It is clear that Professor Foroohar, too, is organizing and promoting this event for the purposes of propagandizing rather than educating students, and like Dean Samiian at CSUF, Professor Foroohar’s animus towards Israel is a matter of public record.  For example:

  • Professor Foroohar is on the Organizing Committee of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on the Coordinating Committee of Israel Divestment Campaign and signed that campaign’s petition demanding that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System divest from Israel; 
  • She is the major author and organizer of a successful campaign to get the California Federation of Teachers, the exclusive union bargaining representative within CSU, to draft and adopt an anti-Israel resolution.
  • Over the last decade, she has given numerous public lectures condemning the Jewish state. 
  • She signed CSU Northridge professor David Klein’s petition calling Israel an “apartheid” and “racist” state and demanding that Chancellor Reed rescind the CSU Israel Abroad program.

In addition, since at least 2003, Professor Foroohar has used her faculty position to bring virulently anti-Israel speakers to Cal Poly to lecture in her History classes and at events that are sponsored by the History Department and the College of Liberal Arts.

At CSUNthe announcement for Pappe’s talk was emailed widely to the campus community by the Office of Academic Affairs, which, according to the CSUN website, is directed by interim President Harry Hellenbrand.  Although co-sponsored by several student groups, the Academic Affairs announcement clearly indicates that Pappe’s talk is an official University event, stating: “California State University, Northridge presents: A lecture by Ilan Pappe.” In addition, the Academic Affairs announcement provides links to two flyers, which appear on the CSUN web server of the Boycott Israel Resources webpage posted by Professor David Klein, the faculty sponsor for two of the student groups sponsoring the event.  Like his CSU colleagues Dean Samiian and Professor Foroohar, Professor Klein’s animus of Israel is also a matter of public record. For example:

  • Professor Klein is an organizer of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a signatory to the Israel Divestment Campaign’s petition demanding that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System divest from Israel;
  • Together with Dean Samiian, he picketed to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles;
  • His “Boycott Israel Resources Page,” hosted on the CSUN web server, contains a litany of false and inflammatory statements and photographs intended to incite hatred and promote political activism against the Jewish state, especially boycott; 
  • He wrote and circulated among CSU faculty, administrators, and students, a petition calling Israel an “apartheid” and “racist” state, accusing Israeli soldiers of murdering American students, and demanding that Chancellor Reed rescind the CSU Israel Abroad program.


At a time when California’s public universities are reeling from unprecedented financial crises, we are appalled that Dean Samiian, Professor Foroohar, and Professor Klein have been permitted to exploit their University positions and taxpayer-funded University resources to promote their hatred of the Jewish state and their efforts to harm it.  We believe the upcoming events at CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN are further glaring examples of this egregious violation of public trust.

Please understand that we are NOT asking that these three events be cancelled or that Ilan Pappe be censored.  Rather, we are calling on you to rescind all CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN sponsorship and support from the Ilan Pappe events, for the following reasons:

  • The University’s sponsorship of these politically motivated and directed events are in clear violation of the will and intention of the CSU Trustees, who formally resolved that “outside speakers brought to the campus will contribute to educational values, that is the pursuit of truth and citizenship values, and not be brought in for propagandizing purposes.”  Indeed, this resolution of the CSU Trustees introduces CSUF’s 2005 policy on outside speakers and events.
  • These events are in violation of CSU policy and the California Education Code (89005.5), which prohibit the use of the name of any CSU campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.
  • The fact that events which will undoubtedly foment hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters are being organized and promoted by University faculty, senior administrators, departments, and colleges cannot help but create a hostile environment for Jewish students at CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN, in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


In addition to ensuring that these events receive no University support or funding, we urge you to widely and publicly acknowledge the Trustee’s policy on propagandizing, and to commit to its enforcement on your campuses.

We believe there is much wisdom in the Trustees’ formulation, and that its enforcement could make a significant difference in improving the climate on CSU campuses, not just for Jewish students, but for all students.

Thank you for your consideration.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Tammi@AMCHAinitiative.org

Leila Beckwith
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Leila@AMCHAinitiative.org

Cc:   Board of Trustees
California State Senator Tom Berryhill (Fresno)
California State Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (Fresno)
California State Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (Fresno)
California State Senator Sam Blakeslee (San Luis Obispo)
California State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (San Luis Obispo)
California State Senator Alex Padilla (Northridge)
California State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfeld (Northridge)

Bcc:    Members and supporter of the Jewish community