UCLA Professor David Shorter’s Class Webpages Promoting the Academic Boycott of Israel
Incident: UCLA Prof. David Shorter used University resources as well as his classroom when he promoted the antisemitic academic and cultural boycott of Israel on the official website for a class he taught on Tribal Worldviews in the 2012 Winter quarter.
AMCHA’s Response: We sent evidence of Prof. Shorter’s use of University resources for his own antisemitic political agenda to UC President Yudof, UCLA Chancellor Block, and leaders of the UC and UCLA Academic Senates, and asked them if this behavior was protected by the UC rules of academic freedom.
AMCHA’s Correspondence with UC Administrators
March 29th, 2012 – AMCHA co-founders’ letter to UC Administrators
The AMCHA Initiative uncovered evidence that a UCLA professor has been using his official class website to promote an anti-Semitic boycott of Israel. AMCHA Initiative co-founders sent UC President Yudof, UCLA Chancellor Block, and leaders of the UC and UCLA Academic Senates the evidence, and posed one simple question to each of them: Is this protected by the UC rules of academic freedom?
The AMCHA Initiative succeeded in eliciting a statement from Dr. Andrew Leuchter, head of the UCLA Academic Senate, regarding the promotion of an anti-Semitic boycott of Israel on a class website. After consulting with top UCLA administrators, he wrote in an email to the AMCHA Initiative 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…and that posting of such materials was a serious error in judgment.” Professor Shorter, at the request of Dr. Leuchter, was then counseled by his department chair not to repeat the mistake.
Dr. Leuchter’s statement is an implicit acknowledgement by UC faculty and administration, for the first time, that promoting the boycott of Israel is a political action and therefore subject to state laws and university policies that prohibit the use of public resources for political activities.
In a letter to Dr. Andrew Leuchter, head of the UCLA Academic Senate, AMCHA co-founders addressed a letter sent to Dr. Leuchter by a group called “California Scholars For Academic Freedom,” which alleged that Dr. Leuchter’s recent statements against the promotion of the boycott of Israel are a violation of academic freedom. AMCHA co-founders showed that the primary concern of CS4AF is not the protection of academic freedom, but rather the protection of academics who wish to exploit the privilege of academic freedom in order to promote an academic boycott of Israel, which, ironically, itself been declared a violation of academic freedom.
AMCHA co-founder Leila Beckwith sent a letter to Prof. Robert Anderson, Chair Assembly of the Academic Senate of the University of California, regarding the, “Statement in Support of Faculty Harassed by Opponents of Their Research.” The letter asked Prof. Anderson to explain and support the claims made regarding attacks on scholars engage in research on Middle East politics. It also asked for clarification on whether UCLA Prof. Shorter’s promotion of a boycott on Israel on his class website was protected by the UC’s rules on academic freedom.
In light of a recent statement by the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom approving of a UCLA professor using his class website to promote the academic boycott of Israel, the AMCHA co-founders sent a letter to the UC Regents and other UC and state leaders, urging them to ensure that UC classrooms are not being used to promote anti-Jewish bigotry.
President Yudof responded on behalf of the regents to the July 23rd AMCHA Initiative letter that urged them to ensure that UC classrooms are not being used to promote anti-Jewish bigotry. His response is insufficient and evasive, as he ignores their responsibility as chief officers of the University of California and defer to the Academic Senate and the UCLA administration.
Regarding UCLA’s Decision to Allow Promotion of Israel Boycott on Class Website AMCHA responded to President Yudof’s letter on behalf of the regents. They detailed why his response is insufficient and evasive. They also explained and gave evidence showing that that the issue of anti-Jewish bigotry is not specific to UCLA, but rather a long-standing and pervasive problem through the UC system.
AMCHA sent a letter to President Yudof and the UC Regents on behalf of over 1,000 members and supports of the California Jewish community. The letter states that they are appalled by the decision of the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom to allow UCLA Prof. Shorter’s promotion of an anti-Semitic boycott on his class website.
UC Regents Chairman Sherry Lansing responded to the letter that AMCHA and 1,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community sent to the UC Regents. She stated that the, “Regents do not sanction anti-Semitism,” and yet she was silent regarding the concerns of the Jewish community.
AMCHA responded to UC Chairman Sherry Lansing’s letter in response to the Jewish community’s concerns. They detail why her silence regarding the concerns of the Jewish community is deeply disturbing. They once again call on the UC Regents to exercise their legal and moral responsibility to deal with anti-Jewish bigotry.