Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate professor
I wanted to share this with everyone on this list serve. On another listserve where I first sent out a call to support Professor William I. Robinson and the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom, a few folks responded openly with concerns about indoctrination. This is an understandable concern - that a professor may use his position of authority over a vulnerable student population to present only one perspective on a complicated issue - and certainly this has happened (I'm certain many a student from working-class community of color can attest to being silenced, even belittled, by 'educators'). However, Professor Robinson runs his classroom in a way that is very reflexive and open for dialogue, as he not only fields any and every question with patience and diligent responses, but also asks his students to criticize everything (even the material he presents them).
Thus, the concern in regards to indoctrination is unfounded as it regards Prof. Robinson. Rather, the real nexus of this problem is forces outside of the university that are attempting to manipulate and dictate what can be discussed in the classroom. Thus, this is an issue of academic freedom, as outside forces are trying to police can can or cannot be said in the university. This is a problem, because (even though we may have a plethora of necessary criticisms of the university, as well as the exclusionary structures and elitism associated with our current system of higher learning) the university should be a place for open dialogue where informed thinkers use debate, backed by evidence, to produce the best knowledge available. Instead, these outside forces are threatening to prevent the university from becoming a space where people can debate openly and freely.
Thus, we see here, in this press release, that Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, called a meeting with extremely high level university administrators and a select number of faculty members in order to pressure the university to investigate Professor Robinson, who merely forwarded an email that compared how the State of Israel was abusing Palestinians with how Nazi Germany treated Jewish people to students in his globalization course. Professor Robinson did not create this email, but merely forwarded it, and nor is it the first nor the only instance where actions by the State of Israel have been critically compared to state fascism.
Unfortunately, this is an incident where a criticism of a government, coming from a university professor, has been manipulated by an outside force into a charge of 'anti-semitism'. Mind you, a criticism of a government should not be confused with racism! Rather, this is an instance of outside forces attempting to police critical thought that may take place at the university.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB <CDAF.UCSB@...>
Date: April 28, 2009 8:57:23 AM PDT
To: Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB <cdaf.ucsb@...>
Subject: Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate professor
Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate professor
Anti-Defamation League's national director personally pressured UCSB representatives to act against faculty member
Date: April 28, 2009
Contact: Jeb Sprague, (805) 886-0429, jhsprague@....
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman held a confidential meeting in early March with University of California officials on campus to pressure them to investigate charges of "anti-Semitism" against sociology professor William I. Robinson.
The meeting included Dean of Students Michael Young, a second dean, and at least seven faculty members.
Some of the meeting participants told Robinson that Foxman, who was in Santa Barbara to meet with local funders, requested the meeting at UCSB for the sole purpose of demanding that university officials investigate Robinson for introducing materials critical of Israeli state policies in a course on globalization in January.
The materials included a photo essay that Robinson forwarded to students from the Internet and that had been circulating in the public realm. The photos compared images of Israeli abuse against Palestinians during the recent military invasion of Gaza with Nazi abuses during the holocaust. Two students took offense at the images and withdrew from the course, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to pressure the university to investigate Robinson for "anti-Semitism."
Robinson said participants at the meeting with Foxman were unaware beforehand of the ADL's intentions. He said the attendees assumed the meeting had been convened to discuss university efforts to hire a chair for a Jewish studies program. "But when the meeting started, Foxman made clear that the only agenda point was his demand that I be investigated," Robinson said.
Robinson said such intimidation against critics of Israel is standard ADL policy, but Foxman's personal intervention at UCSB constitutes a marked escalation of pressure tactics that sets a dangerous precedent for the future of academic freedom here and at other universities.
Foxman, 69, has been director of the Washington, D.C.-based ADL since 1987 and has worked with the organization since 1965. He is an international lobbyist who has met frequently with national and world leaders, including all U.S. presidents since Richard Nixon.
Members of the ADL's Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Office -- which serves Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties -- accompanied Foxman to the meeting on campus.
It's unclear what effect Foxman's pressure had on university officials. However, the Academic Senate has opened a formal investigation of the charges against Robinson.
The decision to investigate the professor spurred an angry backlash on campus. Students formed a Committee to Defend Academic Freedom and have created an online blog to coordinate efforts to cease the investigation against Robinson.
For detailed information about the Robinson case, visit the committee's blog at www.sb4af.wordpress.com.
For media inquiries, call Jeb Sprague at (805) 886-0429, or write him at jhsprague@....
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