April 25, 2012
Re: Questioning the California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Dear Dr. Leuchter,
We are aware that you have received a letter from representatives of “California Scholars For Academic Freedom,” alleging that you violated the academic freedom of UCLA Professor David Delgado Shorter. The letter’s signatories also impugned our motivation and credibility for writing to you, calling us a “partisan duo” and members of “a biased political group,” and they suggested that because of our bias we had no right to ask a question about the appropriateness of a professor using his class website to promote the academic boycott of Israel.
In truth, it is the representatives of the California Scholars For Academic Freedom (CS4AF) whose motivation and credibility must be questioned.
In their letter to you, CS4AF is described as a group of academics whose primary goal is to protect California scholars from violations of academic freedom. This is simply not the case.
CS4AF was founded by UCLA Professor Emerita Sondra Hale, a co-signer of the letter to you. Professor Hale is also the co-founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. CS4AF’s first two official statements, both condemning Israel, were issued on January 3rd and January 18th 2009, respectively. These statements were signed by Professor Hale and three other California academics, who were also co-founders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: Sherna Berger Gluck (CSU Long Beach), Rabab Abdulhadi (SFSU), and Jess Ghannam (UCSF). In addition, if you look at the homepage of the organization’s website — http://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/ — you will see that the the “Academic and Cultural Boycott Campaign” is the top category of interest.
It is clear that the primary concern of CS4AF is not the protection of academic freedom, but rather the protection of academics like Professor Shorter, who wish to exploit the privilege of academic freedom in order to promote an academic boycott of Israel which, ironically, has itself been declared a violation of academic freedom by the AAUP.
We therefore believe that now, more than ever, it is crucial for you to explicitly state the grounds on which you arrived at your conclusion that “it is not appropriate for a faculty member to post a political petition on which he is a signatory as part of a course resource.”
Moreover, we call on the UCLA Academic Senate, whose committee heads were copied on the letter from the CS4AF representatives and are copied on this letter, to issue a definitive statement answering the question we initially posed to you regarding Professor Shorter’s class website:
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?
We believe this is a question which every tax-paying citizen of the state has a right to ask and have answered by those responsible for upholding the academic integrity of the University of California.
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Tammi Rossman-BenjaminLecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative
Cc: UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh
UCLA Committee on Privilege and Tenure Chair James Waschek
UCLA Grievance Advisory Committee Chair Jill Klessing
UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom Chair David Teplow
University of California President Mark Yudof
University of California Chancellors
University of California Regents
University of California Chief Deputy Counsel David Birnbaum
UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion (c/o Jesse Bernal)
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)
Bcc: Members and supporters of the Jewish community