A Question About Academic Freedom

From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin 
To: President@ucop.edu, chancellor@conet.ucla.edu, robert.anderson@ucop.edu, afl@ucla.edu
CC: leila@amchainitiative.org, chancellor@berkeley.edu, chancellor@uci.edu, chancellor@ucmerced.edu, chancellor@ucr.edu, chancellor@ucsd.edu, henry.yang@chancellor.ucsb.edu, chancellor@ucsc.edu, chancellor@ucdavis.edu, sue.hellmann@ucsf.edu, regentsoffice@ucop.edu, jesse.bernal@ucop.edu, Speaker.Perez@assembly.ca.gov, ttorlakson@cde.ca.gov, senator.pavley@senate.ca.gov, senator.lieu@senate.ca.gov, senator.price@senate.ca.gov, assemblymember.mitchell@assembly.ca.gov, assemblymember.feuer@assembly.ca.gov
Date: Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 8:55 AM
Subject: a question about academic freedom

Dear President Yudof, Chancellor Block, UC Academic Senate Chair Anderson, and UCLA Academic Senate Chair Leuchter:

It has come to our attention that UCLA professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, David Delgado Shorter, has been using his official UCLA class website for the purpose of promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel:

  • On the first page of the attached document [click to access document], which is a screen shot of the home page for Professor Shorter’s class “Tribal Woldviews,” you can see circled in red, beneath the icons labeled “announcements” and “discussion section,” an icon labeled “Boycott Israel,” which links to an article entitled “Educators can’t stay silent about Israel apartheid”  calling for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel “in the context of a broader call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
  • The second page of the attached document [click to access document] is a screen shot of another web page from Professor Shorter’s class website entitled “Resources II: Important Links.” Although several of the entries listed on the web page link to articles that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state, it is the last entry on the page, “US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” which we have circled in red and to which we would like to draw your attention. This entry is linked to the home page of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” a campaign which Professor Shorter himself has endorsed.

We believe that Professor Shorter’s use of his official UCLA class website to promote the academic and cultural boycott of Israel violates university policy, state and federal law, principles of academic integrity, and common decency, which we have summarized below.

In light of the highly problematic nature of Professor Shorter’s web pages, we request that you each answer the following question:    

Is Professor Shorter’s promotion of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel on his official UCLA class website protected by the University of California’s rules of academic freedom?

Your answer to this question is extremely important to the Jewish community, to California state legislators and taxpayers, and to decent people everywhere.

We look forward to hearing from each of you soon. If we do not hear from you, we will assume that your answer to our question is YES.


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

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



Professor Shorter’s use of his official UCLA class website to promote the academic and cultural boycott of Israel violates university policy, state and federal law, principles of academic integrity, and common decency:


  1. Professor Shorter’s class web pages are in clear violation of the following current UC policies:
    • Directive issued by Clark Kerr, President of the University of California: “University facilities and the name of the University must not be used in ways which will involve the University as an institution in the political, religious, and other controversial issues of the day”.
    • The Policy on Course Content of The Regents of the University of California: “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.”
    • Directive issued by Charles J. Hitch, President of the University of California, “Restrictions on the Use of University Resources and Facilities for Political Activities”: “The name, insignia, seal, or address of the University or any of its offices or units shall not be used for or in connection with political purposes or activity except as consistent with University regulations…University equipment, supplies, and services—duplicating machines, telephones, mail and messenger services, vehicles, computers, stationery, and other equipment, supplies or services—shall not be used for or in connection with political purposes or activities.”
    • Academic Personnel Policy (APM) 015 – Faculty Code of Conduct: Types of unacceptable conduct: “Unauthorized use of University resources or facilities on a significant scale for personal, commercial, political, or religious purposes.” 
  2. These UCLA web pages are in violation of state law:
    • Article IX, Section 9, of the California Constitution provides that the University “shall be entirely independent of all political and sectarian influence.”
    • California Education Code Section 92000 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.
  3. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin by a governmental entity (such as the University of California) is a violation of both state and federal law.  An academic boycott of the kind being promoted by Professor Shorter on his official UCLA class website means that an entire class of persons will be denied access to a UC campus on the basis of immutable characteristics that are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and parallel provisions of the California Constitution.
  4. The academic boycott of Israel promoted on these 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.”
  5. The founders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have openly stated that their ultimate goal is the elimination 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.  The academic boycott effort is part of the larger anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS), which the Jewish community recognizes as a deliberate assault on the Jewish State and the Jewish people.  Promoting BDS on an official UCLA class website cannot help but contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students in Professor Shorter’s class.