Chancellor Katehi Approves Departmental Sponsorship of Boycott Event
January 17, 2014
Dear Ms. Rossman-Benjamin, Ms. Beckwith, Ms. Rothstein, and Ms. Rubin;
Thank you for your email concerning the lecture this week by Omar Barghouti and others sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, a registered student organization, and co-sponsored by four academic departments.
It is my obligation as the Chancellor of UC Davis to protect the academic freedom and right to freedom of expression of the members of this community. I know you will agree that independent thought and diversity of opinions are the backbone of a great university, and indeed, that academic freedom and freedom of expression are necessary for any university to fulfill its mission of producing and disseminating knowledge.
As you note, it is important that UC Davis as an institution does not take sides on political issues in contravention of university policy. We also do not censure faculty from taking positions on controversial issues or prevent a lecture or debate on those issues in campus events. This would run counter to the basic principles of an academic community. UC Davis is committed to providing a forum that encourages the presentation and debate of all points of view, and we welcome events in which participants may disagree with Mr. Barghouti’s point of view.
As you reference in your letter, I elected to express my views on this topic in a widely disseminated communication to the UC Davis community on December 28, 2013, in which I was joined by Provost Hexter. In this communication, we strongly opposed the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and maintained that a boycott is inimical to the principles of free speech and academic freedom that are the bedrock of teaching and scholarship. I elected to express my point of view on this topic, and I feel very strongly about it. Despite how I feel personally, I have the duty to protect the rights of students, faculty, and staff to express their own opinions and beliefs.
Linda P.B. Katehi
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Chancellor UC Davis
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