AMCHA Initiative Co-Founders’ Response to Letter from UC Regents Chairman Sherry Lansing
From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: September 20, 2012 9:16:19 AM PDT
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Subject: Re: Letter from the Jewish Community to UC Regents and President
Dear UC Regents Chairman Lansing,
Once again we are very troubled by your response below to our letter dated 9/12/12, in which we expressed our deep distress at your insensitivity to the concerns of more than 1,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community regarding the University’s sanctioning of anti-Semitic bigotry in UC classrooms, and their plea for the Regents to exercise moral and legal authority in addressing this matter.
In our letter to you, we described two reasonable courses of action which the Regents could take in order to address the serious concerns of the Jewish community:
1) The Regents could publicly affirm and commit themselves to enforcing the UC Regents Policy on Course Content, which states in relevant part:
“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) The Regents could use their own Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech to condemn the anti-Semitic academic and cultural boycott of Israel and all other anti-Jewish bigotry on UC campuses.
However, instead of exercising the legal and moral authority of your office, you wrote: “we simply must support free speech and academic freedom on all UC campuses. Therefore, we are not able to agree to your requests.”
Your response wrongly implies that our requests would involve the Regents in illegal action, in potential violation of the First Amendment and academic freedom. But a careful reading of our letter reveals no such requests on our part. Asking the Regents to enforce their own policy does not and cannot violate either the First Amendment or academic freedom. Asking the Regents to use their own free speech does not and cannot violate the First Amendment or academic freedom.
Therefore, we call on you to explain to the Jewish community exactly how “support of free speech and academic freedom on all UC campuses” precludes you from agreeing to these two reasonable requests.
If you cannot or will not clarify your failure to act, we will understand that your oft-repeated claim about the Regents’ opposition to anti-Semitism is simply disingenuous, written to hide from the Jewish community the Regents’ unwillingness to adequately address the serious problem of anti-Jewish bigotry on UC campuses and their clear disregard for the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California.
We look forward to your reply.
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
UC President Mark Yudof
UC Provost Dorr
UC Academic Senate Chair Anderson
UC Academic Senate Vice Chair Powell
UC General Counsel Robinson
UC Secretary and Chief of Staff Kelman
UC Interim Diversity Coordinator Bernal
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
California Jewish community leaders
Members and supporters of the Jewish community
Dear Professor Beckwith and Ms. Rossman-Benjamin,
I am in receipt of your email dated September 12th and wanted to personally respond to your concerns.
As President Yudof and I have previously stated in numerous letters and emails, we are adamantly against anti-Semitism at UC campuses. We and the Regents have been consistently vocal in our feelings about this issue, which I feel particularly strongly about. In fact, President Yudof formed and has been working with his Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion since June of 2010 to address concerns about anti-Semitism on University campuses, as well as issues of discrimination and hostile environments for other groups. As stated before, we are determined to make sure that UC campuses are safe and welcoming places for all members of our University community.
In addition, as Regents’ Secretary and Chief of Staff Marsha Kelman mentioned in her e-mail of August 21st, President Yudof, Regent Gould, and I issued the attached statement in May 2010 declaring that we would not bring a recommendation before the Board to divest from companies doing business with the State of Israel. We remain firmly committed to that decision.
However, we simply must support free speech and academic freedom on all UC campuses. Therefore, we are not able to agree to your requests. The UCLA administration and Senate has thoroughly reviewed this matter and we stand behind their decision.
Just know that I take your concerns very seriously and want you to know that President Yudof, the Regents, and I are doing everything possible to protect Jewish students and faculty – as well as every individual affiliated with UC. Nevertheless, we must also protect the right to free speech.