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UCR’s Support of Academic Boycott Event

Letter to UCR Chancellor Regarding UCR’s Support of Academic Boycott Event


January 14, 2014

Dear Chancellor Wilcox,

We are the co-founders of AMCHA Initiative, an organization devoted to monitoring and combatting campus antisemitism.  Together with Rabbi Singer and Rabbi Cohn, we co-signed the letter to you regarding the upcoming university-sponsored talk by Omar Barghouti.

We are troubled by your response to our letter, forwarded below.  At a time when 190 university leaders, including UC president Janet Napolitano, have denounced the anti-Israel boycott as antithetical to the mission of the university, UC Riverside is offering course credit for students to attend an unambiguously political, anti-Israel boycott speech.  Indeed, you argue that it is perfectly acceptable for university departments to sponsor an antisemitic talk by a non-academic political activist who advocates and encourages students to adopt a position that “goes against the spirit of the University of California.”  We believe your argument is deeply flawed.

As you know, we claim that departmental sponsorship of a talk whose purpose is to advocate for an antisemitic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars is a violation of university policy and state law:

UC Policies:

1) The Policy on Course Content of The Regents of the University of California, approved June 19, 1970 and amended September 22, 2005:  “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.”

We maintain that giving course credit for attendance at a politically motivated and directed event, which is obviously intended to indoctrinate students regarding the academic boycott of Israel, is a clear violation of this Regents policy.

In addition, in light of the fact that so many of the CHASS and Ethnic Studies faculty are themselves proponents of the academic boycott of Israel, there is no doubt that the sponsorship of this event by these two academic units is meant to advance the partisan political interests of the academic boycotters, and cannot help but drag the University into partisan politics.

2)  Directive issued by Clark Kerr, President of the University of California, September, 1961 (still in effect): “University facilities and the name of the University must not be used in ways which will involve the University as an institution in the political, religious, and other controversial issues of the day”.

It is clear that the departmental sponsorship of this event will use “university facilities and the name of the University” in a way that involves UCR in a politically controversial issue of the day, namely, advocating for the boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

State Laws:

3) California Education Code 92000(a)(3): The name “University of California” is the property of the state.  No person shall, without the permission of the Regents of the University of California, use this name, or any abbreviation of it or any name of which these words are a part, in any of the following ways…to display, advertise, or announce this name publicly at, or in connection with, any meeting, assembly, or demonstration, or any propaganda, advertising, or promotional activity of any kind which has for its purpose or any part of its purpose the support, endorsement, advancement…of any… boycott”.

Without the permission of the UC Regents, UC Riverside’s name cannot be used to support, endorse, or advance a boycott.  We do not believe that the Regents have given permission for CHASS and Ethnic Studies faculty to use the University’s name in connection with an event whose primary purpose is to support, endorse and advance the academic boycott of Israel.  Therefore, this event violates the state’s Education Code.

4) California Government Code 8314: “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.” The statute proceeds to define “personal purposes” as “an outside endeavor not related to state business.”

We have no problem with UCR faculty using their own time and resources to promote an antisemitic boycott of Israel.  We do, however, believe that when UCR faculty use the University’s resources for their partisan personal purposes, namely, to promote an antisemitic boycott of Israel, they are clearly not carrying out “state business,” and are in violation of this statute.

You write that our claim about the impropriety and illegality of the Omar Barghouti event “runs counter to…a core value of this university.”  Please tell us what core value of the University of California Riverside condones the use of the University’s name and resources by politically partisan faculty to promote an academic boycott which 190 university leaders, including UC President Janet Napolitano, have deemed a violation of academic freedom and antithetical to the values of the university, and almost every Jewish leader has deemed antisemitic?

The Jewish community and taxpayers of California eagerly await your response.


Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder AMCHA Initiative

Leila Beckwith
Co-founder AMCHA Initiative



—–Original Message—–

Monday, January 13, 2014 5:36 PM

Dear Rabbi Singer,

Thank you for your letters concerning Omar Barghouti’s lecture this week on
our campus, and the American Studies Association’s recent vote to boycott
Israeli academic institutions.

As a leading public research university, UC Riverside is committed to the
principle of academic freedom and to the open exchange of ideas that is at
the heart of academic discovery and scholarship. We believe that our faculty
and students, and those elsewhere, must be free to communicate and work with
others across the U.S. and around the world.

In a recent statement, University of California President Janet Napolitano
noted the university’s proud traditions of freedom of speech and diversity
of thought.

“Universities depend on the unrestrained exchange of ideas, and it is our
role to defend academic freedom and our scholars’ ability to pursue research
of their choice,” she said. “An academic boycott goes against the spirit of
the University of California, which has long championed open dialogue and
collaboration with international scholars.”

We support President Napolitano’s statement, and join with her and many
others, including the Association of American Universities and the
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, in opposing this boycott.
As others have noted, holding academic entities responsible for restrictions
imposed by their governments would punish institutions, in many cases, that
are home to vigorous academic debate and a range of perspectives.

By the same token, although we may not always agree on specifics, we
strongly support the freedom of our own academic community members to
express their views, hear varying opinions and engage in thoughtful
discourse — on this subject and others. That is a core value of this

Your position that faculty sponsorship of a lecture by Omar Barghouti
constitutes “a violation of both university policy and state law” and your
request that the university withdraw official sponsorship of the lecture
appear to run counter to that tradition.

As Justice Brandeis, the architect of our modern understanding of the First
Amendment, wisely noted nearly a century ago, when one is confronted with
speech one finds disagreeable or even abhorrent, “the more speech,
not enforced silence.”

Thank you for raising your concerns with the university.


Kim A. Wilcox

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