Coalition accuses Berkeley course of 'political indoctrination'
Hundreds of professors and advocacy organizations are calling on University of California system President Janet Napolitano to crack down on classroom indoctrination at her most notoriously left-leaning campus.
In a letter to Napolitano Tuesday, 176 individual faculty members from colleges around the country and 47 religious, civil rights, education, and research organizations argue that a student-taught course titled “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis” was not properly vetted before being approved, which they point out is a violation of the Regents Policy on Course Content.
“The corruption is now public and can no longer be ignored.”
“Even after Dean Carla Hesse asked Ethnic Studies to re-review the syllabus in light of the Regents Policy, the department chair approved the course, denying that it had any particular political agenda or that it crossed the line from education to indoctrination,” the letter explains. “We find it hard to believe that a course with an obviously one-sided anti-Israel reading list, exclusively anti-Israel guest speakers, and a clear intent to justify the elimination of the State of Israel is considered to be consistent with Regents Policy.”
Tammi Rossman-Benajmin—a UC lecturer and director of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization focused on combating, monitoring, and documenting anti-Semitism in higher education—stated in a press release that while the underlying issue is not new, it has grown problematically prominent.
“UC students have long shared personal anecdotes of teachers who engage in anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic advocacy and activism in the classroom,” she asserted. “However, the corruption is now public and can no longer be ignored.”
The specific course in question is being sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) co-founder and UC faculty member Hatem Bazian, and many of the 47 organizations that co-signed the letter to Napolitano were also among the 43 that had previously signed a letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at the start of the semester expressing concerns about the course.
The letter also criticizes the university for abetting anti-Semtic propaganda in other respects, as well.
“In a similar case a year ago, an almost identical course at UC Riverside, ‘Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid,’ was proposed by a student instructor under the supervision of an openly anti-Zionist faculty advisor in the English Department,” the letter asserts. “When confronted with similar concerns about an inadequate vetting process that did not ensure the course’s compliance with the Regents Policy on Course Content before its approval, UCR officials there, too, claimed after the fact that the unambiguously one-sided, proselytizing course was in compliance with all UC policies.”
While the signatories say they “strongly support” First Amendment protections, even when it comes to opinions and causes “that we find morally reprehensible or even anti-Semitic,” they contend that free speech does not apply to advancing particular political positions using taxpayer resources.
“We object...when faculty members use their university positions and taxpayer resources to recruit for an anti-Semitic political movement, indoctrinate their students to support the elimination of the Jewish state, or allow their colleagues to do so,” the letter declares. “As the UC-wide Committee on Academic Freedom has made abundantly clear, professors ‘who abuse their position to indoctrinate students cannot claim the protection of academic freedom.’”
The letter closes by identifying two specific steps that Napolitano can take to address the issue.
First, the letter requests that she “issue a statement that describes and re-asserts the Regents Policy on Course Content and the UC Policy on Academic Freedom, and that clarifies that the ‘advance of personal interest’ and ‘political indoctrination’ constitutes serious misuse of the classroom.”
In addition, the signatories recommend that she task each of the UC Chancellors with ensuring that courses are scrutinized in accordance with school policy, ideally preventing such lapses in oversight, but at least providing accountability in the event that they recur.
Spokespersons for UC Berkeley had not responded to requests for comment from Campus Reform by press time.
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