AMCHA’S Responses to Antisemitic Activity at University of California Riverside
3. An Antisemitic Course is Offered at UCR, which Violates a UC Policy Prohibiting Political Indoctrination in the Classroom
- INCIDENT: An antisemitic course is being offered at UCR, which violates a UC policy prohibiting political indoctrination in the classroom. The course title, according to the syllabus, is “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid.” On the UCR website it is titled, “Palestinian Voices” – a clear attempt to obfuscate the extreme anti-Israel bias of the course by re-titling it for the R’Course web page. The course is being taught by a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
- 4/16/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter of 20 groups to Chancellor Wilcox asking him to investigate if the course violates course policy and if so, to eliminate it. The letter stated, “The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered anti-Semitic according to the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism.” The groups highlighted that the course syllabus strongly suggests the instructor will be engaged in political indoctrination, in clear violation of University policy. The groups included: Accuracy in Academia, AMCHA Initiative, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, California Association of Scholars, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), CUFI on Campus, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, National Conference on Jewish Affairs, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism, The Lawfare Project, Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.), Verity Educate, Zionist Organization of America.
- 5/7/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: Chancellor Wilcox does not acknowledge receipt of the 20 organization’s letter. Additionally, when hundreds of AMCHA members and supporters wrote to the Chancellor expressing their outrage, he sent the same email to each correspondent, which read in part: “The syllabus for the course was reviewed by a faculty committee which determined that the course meets University of California standards.” Clearly, neither Chancellor Wilcox nor the faculty committee which reviewed the course referred to the Regents Policy on Course Content in evaluating the course’s worthiness to be offered for credit at UCR. In response to UC Riverside administration’s failure to properly address the blatant one-sided nature of the course, as well as an independent evaluation of the course released by the non-partisan group Verity Educate which confirmed the politically driven propaganda of the course, AMCHA organized a coalition letter of 27 groups to UC President Napolitano and Provost Dorr. The letter asked President Napolitano and Provost Dorr to, “Issue a clear statement about whether the UCR course “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid” violates the Regents Policy on Course Content, and what must be done if it is found to be in violation of University policy; Issue clear guidelines to all UC Chancellors and academic senate leaders about how to enforce the Regents Policy on Course Content.”
- 6/3/15 – UNIVERSITY RESPONSE: The UC Office of the President has requested that the Riverside campus perform a detailed review of the student-facilitated “R’Course” titled “Palestinian Voices” (offered this spring quarter). This memo and the accompanying appendices provide such a review – focusing on the question of whether applicable University policies have been followed. While the “Palestinian Voices” course addresses a controversial topic (one where reasonable people can disagree), the course was approved via the regular application of professional faculty/Senate review standards and this course did not violate UC policies including The Regents’ policy on course content.
2. UAW 2865 Releases Statement of Intent to Support Antisemitic BDS Movement and Bring Propaganda to Classroom
- INCIDENT: The 83-member joint council of UAW 2865 – representing all of the TA’s, tutors and readers at the 9 teaching campuses of the University of California –issued a statement outlining the union’s intent to support the anti-Israel and antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and to seek a full-membership vote on the statement this coming year. The nine teaching campuses include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. In the statement, the union exclaimed the need to “educate” others on the “settler-colonial” and “apartheid” nature of the Jewish state.
- 8/12/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC President Napolitano which included eleven other groups – Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Lawfare Project and Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked President Napolitano to ensure antisemitic propaganda and BDS are not brought into UC classrooms by the Union of Student Workers.
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr responds to the coalition with a letter, confirming that the “University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Conduct, referenced in your letter.” The letter further states, “We will ask the campuses to remind all the ASE’s about these policies and their obligation to adhere to them.”
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr sends a letter to all 9 Chancellors, which states, “Attached is a letter from Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative, raising concerns about academic student employees (ASE) supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in classrooms. In the last several weeks, we have received over a hundred emails similar to Ms. Benjamin’s. You may have received such inquiries as well. Since we have had queries from your campuses about this issue, I am writing to clarify that the University’s position as to the conduct of ASEs in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the following…” The letter further listed the Policy on Course Content, Management and Academic Rights, Academic Freedom, and the Faculty Code of Conduct.
- 10/7/14 – AMCHA & COALITION THANK YOU LETTER RESPONSE: AMCHA and coalition respond to Provost Dorr’s positive actions with a letter expression gratitude, including stating, “We were very concerned that this would happen with UC teaching assistants, and are therefore grateful that you confirmed: “The University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Content”. In addition, we greatly appreciate that you sent a letter notifying every UC Chancellor of the need to inform ASE’s that they are obligated to adhere to several university policies which prohibit them from using their instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel. These policies were established for a reason, and we appreciate your reminding the Chancellors to uphold them.”
- 12/8/14 – AMCHA & 21 ORGANIZATIONS PROACTIVELY WRITE UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO AND UC PROVOST DORR: Following the UAW 2865 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) vote on December 4 2014, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy groups wrote to inquire of UC President Napolitano and UC Provost Dorr whether University of California (UC) policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, propaganda in the classroom also apply to UC faculty.
- 12/11/14 – ASSEMBLYMEMBER BLOOM WRITES TO UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: Out of concern for Jewish and pro-Israel students, Assemblymember Bloom sent a letter to UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents which stated in part: “I greatly appreciate that Provost Dorr took the time to explicity remind all chancellors that the Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits UAW graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel propaganda in the classroom. Earlier this week, in a letter authored by Tammi Benjamin of AMCHA, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy organizations wrote to you asking if the Regents Policy on Course Content also applies to UC faculty. I join in asking that question. The classroom must be a place where all views are welcomed and all students feel they can have a voice. The classroom should not be a soapbox for a professor’s political advocacy.”
- 12/18/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS WRITE 9 UC CHANCELLORS: Following the passage of the adoption of BDS by UAW 2865, AMCHA Initiative and 21 other education, civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter to nine University of California (UC) Chancellors urging them to publicly state their commitment to upholding UC policies which prohibit academic student employees (ASEs) from using their instructional positions to promote a boycott of Israel. The letter concludes by stating, “We therefore call on each of you to issue a public statement affirming your commitment to strictly enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content and to ensuring that Jewish and pro-Israel students have access to a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment.”
- 12/19/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: In response to a letter sent from the AMCHA-led coalition of 22 groups on December 8, 2014 asking if the UC policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS in the classroom also apply to UC faculty, Provost Dorr responded by stating, “I understand from your letter that you are concerned that UC faculty may promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the classroom and that you are seeking clarification as to whether the Regents Policy on Course Content applies to UC faculty members. In response to your question, the Regents Policy on Course Content does apply to UC faculty members.”
- 12/22/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS THANK PROVOST DORR: The AMCHA-led coalition thanked University of California (UC) Provost Aimee Dorr and UC administrators for protecting the well-bring of Jewish students, stating “Thank you very much for your response to our letter …We are…extremely grateful for your acknowledgement that the Regents Policy on Course Content, which prohibits the misuse of the classroom for the advance of partisan interests and political indoctrination, applies equally to graduate student instructors and faculty. We also appreciate that you copied all of the UC Chancellors on your response, and we hope that in light of your very clear statement, administrators on each campus will strictly enforce the Regents Policy on Course Content in the case of both graduate student instructors and faculty, thereby ensuring that all students — including Jewish and pro-Israel students — have access to a quality learning environment that is safe and non-discriminatory.”
1. Three UC Campuses Sponsor Boycott Event, Violate State Law and University Policy – Including UC Riverside
- INCIDENT: Three University of California campuses appear to have violated university policy and state law when they used taxpayer dollars to sponsor events featuring Omar Barghouti, the founder and most vocal advocate of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on three UC campuses – UC Riverside, UCLA, and UC Davis. At UC Riverside, the UC Riverside College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) and Ethnic Studies Department co-sponsored a talk by Omar Barghouti entitled “Palestine’s South Africa moment: relative justice, not relative humans.” Despite Barghouti being neither a university professor nor an academic, his status as founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has garnered him support from many on UCR’s faculty who also support the academic boycott of Israel, and the departments have even offered official course credit to students for attending this boycott event.
- 1/13/14 – RABBI SINGER, RABBI COHN AND AMCHA INITIATIVE’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative along with Rabbi Singer and Rabbi Cohn, begins by alerting Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, notifying him of the pro-boycott speaker, the official course credit offered to students for attending the talk, the endorsement of this event by UC Riverside departments, the concentration of pro-boycott faculty in support of the event, the public proclamation of such support by said faculty, and recent public statements on academic boycott from UC leaders.
- 1/14/14 – UC RIVERSIDE’S RESPONSE: Chancellor Wilcox dismisses AMCHA’s claims.
- 1/14/14 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative responds to UC Riverside Chancellor Wilcox, asking how he can support the boycott event, specifically in light of UC President Janet Napolitano’s denouncement of academic boycotts. AMCHA presents state laws and UC policies, showing violations, and asking Wilcox how UCR can condone such an event given the policies not allowing such partisan activities.
- 1/17/14 – RABBI SINGER, RABBI COHN AND AMCHA INITIATIVE’S RESPONSE: Rabbi Singer and Rabbi Cohn and AMCHA write to UC Riverside Chancellor Wilcox, highlighting the propagandistic and partisan content of the event. They highlight California Government Code 8314 and California Education Code 92000 as being violated, and ask Wilcox about intended steps to prevent further violations.
- 1/22/14 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative went before the UC Regents to speak about this issue.
- 2/1/2014 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: After numerous requests to administrators were ignored, AMCHA orchestrated a petition to reach out to legislators for help.
- 4/23/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: More than 1,000 California residents signed the petition asking legislators to help stop University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) faculty from using taxpayer dollars for antisemitism. AMCHA delivered the signed petition along with a letter to the legislators.