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Letter to Chancellor Katehi regarding Academic Boycott Event at UCD

January 15, 2014

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

It has recently been brought to our attention by concerned UC Davis students that four UCD academic units — ME/SA, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies, and Asian American Cultural Politics Research Cluster — are co-sponsoring with Students for Justice in Palestine an event featuring Omar Barghouti entitled “Revisiting the Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” scheduled to take place this Thursday, January 16, on your campus.  

Omar Barghouti has been invited for one reason only.  He is the founder and most vocal advocate of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,  the campaign from which all other academic boycotts of Israel derive, including the recent boycott of Israeli universities and scholars by the American Studies Association (ASA) and the resolution currently under consideration by the Modern Language Association (MLA).  Promoting the boycott of Israel’s academic and cultural institutions is the only topic of which Barghouti speaks. 

Our concern is with the departmental sponsorship of Barghouti’s talk.  We believe that the faculty behind the departmental sponsorship of this event are motivated by a partisan political agenda rather than an educational one, as can be seen by the fact that several members of these departments are themselves  endorsers and promoters of the academic boycott of Israel:

• Suad Joseph, the Founding Director of the Middle East/South Asia Studies program (ME/SA), has endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles in solidarity with the academic boycott of Israel, signed an open letter challenging Israeli academics opposed to international boycott efforts, and signed a petition to shut down the UC Israel Abroad program.

• Sunaina Maira, a faculty member in both ME/SA and Asian American Studies, is a founding member and signatory of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, one of the organizers of the American Studies Association boycott of Israeli universities and scholars, signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles, in solidarity with the academic boycott of Israel, and signed a petition to shut down the UC Israel Abroad program.

• Three members of the Asian American Studies faculty are on the National Council of the Association for Asian American Studies, which unanimously voted to impose an academic boycott on Israel: Richard Kim (Department Chair), Susette Min, and Robyn Rodriguez. Two other members of the department are also signatories to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Sunaina Maira and Caroline Valverde. Of the 9 faculty members in Asian American Studies, more than half have publicly advocated for the boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

• The UCD Native American Studies Department is an active participant in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, an organization whose National Council recently approved an academic boycott of Israel.

Please understand that academic freedom does not provide protection for university departments that use the name and resources of the university to promote a partisan political agenda, as doing so is a clear violation of university policy and state law, including the following:

• Policy on Course Content of The Regents of the University of California, approved June 19, 1970 and amended September 22, 2005:  “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.”  Pro-boycott faculty are using the reputation of their departments and the University as an instrument for the advance of their partisan interest, as well as to indoctrinate UCD students.

• Directive issued by Clark Kerr, President of the University of California, September, 1961 (still in effect): “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.” Departmental sponsorship of this event will use “university facilities and the name of the University” in a way that involves UCD in a politically controversial issue of the day, namely, advocating for the boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

• California Education Code 92000(a)(3): The name “University of California” is the property of the state.  No person shall, without the permission of the Regents of the University of California, use this name, or any abbreviation of it or any name of which these words are a part, in any of the following ways…to display, advertise, or announce this name publicly at, or in connection with, any meeting, assembly, or demonstration, or any propaganda, advertising, or promotional activity of any kind which has for its purpose or any part of its purpose the support, endorsement, advancement…of any… boycott”. Without the permission of the UC Regents, the name of your University, or its departments, cannot be used to support, endorse, or advance a boycott.  

• California Government Code 8314: “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.” The statute proceeds to define “personal purposes” as “an outside endeavor not related to state business.” As state employees, UCD departments and faculty who use University resources for partisan personal purposes, namely, to promote an antisemitic boycott of Israel, are clearly NOT carrying out “state business,” and are therefore in violation of this statute. 

In light of the condemnation of the ASA’s boycott of Israeli universities and scholars by you and Provost Hexter, UC President Janet Napolitano and more than 190 other university leaders across the country, it is of great concern that your university would use its name and resources to promote what university leaders have deemed a violation of academic freedom and antithetical to the very mission of the university, and what Jewish leaders and state and federal legislators have deemed antisemitic. 

Using the name and resources of UC Davis to sponsor Omar Barghouti’s expression of his extremist views would taint UC Davis’s reputation and only encourage further antisemitic behavior on your campus.

We call on you to withdraw the departmental sponsorship of the upcoming lecture by Omar Barghouti.


Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative
Leila Beckwith
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Roz Rothstein
CEO, StandWithUs

Gail Rubin, J.D.
StandWithUs Lay Leader, Davis/Sacramento

Cc:   UC President Janet Napolitano
        UC Regents
        California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
        California State Senator Lois Wolk  (Davis)
        California State Assembly Member Mariko Yamada  (Davis)
        Davis Mayor Pro Tem Joe Krovoza
        California Jewish Leaders

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