AFTER MOUNTING PRESSURE, UC BERKELEY SUSPENDS
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, September 13, 2016 – Responding to pressure from dozens of Jewish and education advocacy organizations, who over the past few weeks have individually and today collectively objected to a blatantly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic course currently being offered, UC Berkeley announced it will suspend the course because it was not adequately vetted to ensure that it met Berkeley’s academic standards.
“This is a great day for students at Berkeley,” exclaimed Tammi Rossman Benjamin, the director of AMCHA Initiative who wrote and coordinated this morning’s letter to Chancellor Dirks. “Our classrooms should never be used to spew hate or push political propaganda aimed at indoctrinating students. That is why the University of California has policies clearly prohibiting such abuse. We applaud UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Dirks and his staff for their swift and appropriate response regarding this course. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that all new courses at UC Berkeley are adequately reviewed for compliance with university policies prohibiting misuse of the classroom for political indoctrination.”
A copy of the letter from the Jewish and education advocacy groups to Chancellor Dirks and UC Berkeley’s response announcing the course’s suspension can be viewed below.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization that combats campus anti-Semitism nationwide.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Chancellor Departmental
Subject: Re: Serious concerns about vetting procedure for DeCal courses at UCB
Date: September 13, 2016 at 10:26:36 AM PDT
To: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Cc: “Carol T. CHRIST”
Dear Ms. Rossman-Benjamin,
On behalf of Chancellor Dirks, thank you for your message regarding one of the University’s student-taught “Decal” courses, called, “Palestine: A settler Colonial Analysis”.
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.
Campus leadership remains committed to fostering and sustaining a campus climate where every individual feels safe, welcome and respected. In a recent survey, 75% of our Jewish students reported feeling comfortable on this campus—a number that is identical to the campus average and two points higher than comfort levels reported by students with a Christian affiliation. However, we believe we can do better still, not just for Jewish students, but for all of our students. That is but one of the reasons we recently took the unprecedented step of forming Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Student Life and Campus Climate, a group that includes students, faculty, staff and leading members of the Bay Area’s Jewish community who are joining us in this important effort.
Berkeley also great pride in our our new kosher dining facility; vibrant Hillel chapter; the broad range of other Jewish student groups; the Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law at the Berkeley law school our library’s Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life; and our world class Center for Jewish Studies.
UC Berkeley will continue to confront intolerance, bias, and the campus fully supports the Regents recently issued Principles Against Intolerance.
On Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 7:35 AM, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Dear Chancellor Dirks,
We are 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of supporters, including many within the UC Berkeley community, who are deeply concerned about a student-taught, credit-bearing course entitled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” that is currently being offered as one of the academic senate-approved DeCal courses at UC Berkeley this semester. We believe that this course violates 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.” Furthermore, it appears 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. This state of affairs requires rectification.
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:
- Course Learning Objectives – These make it clear that a key goal of the class is to encourage students to accept unquestioningly the false and defamatory idea that Israel is an illegitimate settler colonial state. Furthermore, by the end of the course students are required to have “researched, formulated, and presented decolonial alternatives to the current situation,” which, in the context of the other course objectives, means that a significant part of the course will be devoted to thinking about ways to “decolonize” — that is, eliminate — Israel.
- Course Readings – All of the course readings, without exception, have a blatantly anti-Israel bias, and most contain language that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and is recognized as antisemitic by the U.S. government, democratic world leaders, scholars of antisemitism and the Jewish community. In addition, virtually all of the authors of the course readings have either publicly endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, called for the dismantling of Israel, or both.
- Guest Speakers – Both guest speakers listed in the syllabus — Keith Feldman and Hatem Bazian — have publicly supported an academic boycott of Israel, and Bazian, who is also the course’s faculty sponsor, is himself a well-known leader of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement as well as campaigns to eliminate the Jewish state.
The political bias and tendentiousness of the course syllabus is not surprising in light of the extreme anti-Zionist political orientation and behavior of both the course’s student instructor and its faculty advisor. Paul Hadweh, the student instructor, is an active member of UCB’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an avowedly anti-Zionist group that advocates for the elimination of the Jewish state and promotes BDS on campus. Senior Lecturer Hatem Bazian, faculty advisor for the course, is a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is “the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students,” placing a “heavy emphasis on supporting and helping coordinate the activity of Students for Justice in Palestine”. In addition, on multiple occasions Bazian has openly expressed the view that it is legitimate to bring anti-Zionist activism into the classroom or other academic settings.
Even more troubling than the course’s clear attempts to promote a partisan interest and indoctrinate students is the fact that “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” was able to successfully pass through a review process overseen by an administrative staff and members of the UCB academic senate. Of the 194 DeCal courses taught this semester, this is the only one that is blatantly politically motivated and directed. The egregious anti-Zionist bias of the syllabus, along with publicly available information about the extreme political bias and activism of the course instructor and faculty advisor, should have raised many red flags for the staff and faculty members responsible for overseeing the DeCal program. We believe that had this course been properly evaluated in light of the Regents Policy on Course Content, it would never have been offered.
In 2014, UC Provost Aimee Dorr issued two statements reaffirming the University of California’s commitment to enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content for courses taught by both students and faculty. However, an examination of the vetting procedure for DeCal courses reveals that at no stage of the process is a course ever evaluated for its compliance with the Regents Policy. Indeed, that policy is noticeably absent from the list of UC Policies that student instructors are required to abide by and from the checklist they must fill out when submitting proposals to teach a DeCal course; it is noticeably absent from the list of requirements that faculty advisors and department chairs must comply with when their students apply to teach DeCal courses; and, most surprisingly, it is noticeably absent from the list of criteria used by members of the UCB Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction (COCI) when they are reviewing DeCal course proposals — and in fact, all new course proposals.
Omitting any assessment of whether a DeCal course — or any credit-bearing course — complies with the Regents Policy on Course Content and is free from “the advance of partisan interest” or “political indoctrination” not only allows for the unbridled politicization and corruption of the academic mission of the university, it opens the classroom to the basest kind of political hatred and intolerance, which cannot help but degrade the campus climate for all students.
In order to address this situation, we urge you to take the following steps as soon as possible:
1) Publicly affirm your 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.
Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter. We look forward to hearing from you.
Academic Council for Israel
Accuracy in Academia
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness
AMCHA UCLA Alumni
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA)
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Bears for Israel
Chabad Jewish Student Group at Berkeley
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
Davis Faculty for Israel
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israeli-American Council (IAC)
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
Middle East Forum
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Stop BDS on Campus
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
The Berkeley Jewish Student Union Executive Board
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
The Shofar Project
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: Carol Christ, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost UC Berkeley
Cathy Koshland, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education UC Berkeley
Robert L. Powell, Chair Academic Senate UC Berkeley
Leslea Hlusko, Chair Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction UC Berkeley
Janet Napolitano, UC President
Aimee Dorr, UC Provost and Executive Vice President
UC Board of Regents
Regent Eddie Island, Chair Committee on Educational Policy UC Board of Regents
Senator Carol Liu, Chair California Senate Standing Committee on Education
Assembly Member Jose Medina, Chair of the California State Assembly Higher Education Committee
Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Senator Marty Block, Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus