The Islamic Post Blog


Academic Senate Charges Committee Subjects Professor to Scrutiny over Palestine Views by ipinfo2
December 8, 2012, 12:10 am
Filed under: 2009 June Vol. 1, World

June Vol. 1, 2009

By Asma Stewart

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has become the latest front in the war against academic freedom. Professor William Robinson, who teaches classes in Jewish Sociology and also Global studies, was brought up on charges of anti-Semitism after two Jewish students reported the professor to school authorities and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) for an email message that included 25 photos of war-battered Palestinians, equating their plight to that of Jews under Nazi rule. The email also contained an editorial by a Jewish journalist condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza as well as juxtaposed images of Nazi atrocities with congruent images of Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
The email was an optional read for students, intended to spark conversation by relating contemporary events to conceptual ideas discussed in class. However, the offended students stated the email in question contained the personal views of the professor and that he overstepped his bounds as a professional educator by the intrusion of material unrelated to the course.
A week after the email was sent, the ADL wrote Robinson a letter charging him with anti-Semitism and sundry violations of the Faculty Code of Conduct. Another week passed, and the professor heard from an Academic Senate Charges Officer, who notified him that two of the students in the class to which he circulated the email had filed complaints against him. In addition to leveling charges of anti-Semitism, the complaints insist the Israeli-Palestinian issue should not be discussed in a class on Globalization.
Professor Robinson has explained that he feels the issue is being pushed by pro-Israel lobby groups who he feels have long been exploiting the term anti-Semitism to push the goals of political Zionism. Mr Robinson has defended himself by saying he himself is Jewish and that the suggestion that he is anti-Semitic is “like saying if I condemn the U.S. government for the invasion of Iraq, I’m anti-American… It’s the most absurd, baseless argument.”
Upon hearing the news of Mr. Robinson’s academic accusations, many colleagues and students (graduate and under-graduate) as well as various on lookers banded together to show support to the professor.
Officer acts as co-complainant
In compliance with campus Procedures of the Faculty Code of Ethics, the charges officer is to simply notify the accused faculty member. However, the case took a twist when it was found that the Charges Officer who notified Robinson of the complaints reportedly violated several elements of the charges procedure, thereby acting as a co-complainant by fabricating charges that were not raised by the students.
At this point the charges have reached the Committee on Committees, which is now in the process of convening an ad hoc Charges Committee to assess the complaints against Professor Robinson. Critics of the complaints say that further consideration of the charges by the Academic Senate serves only to sanction politically-motivated attacks on academic freedom. The longer this case is pursued, the wider its effect may become. Many fear that this type of academic censoring may spread fear among those who wish to present critical subjects, though they may be controversial. Even though the original complaint is regarding the Israeli- Palestian conflict, the concern for academic freedom and historic objectivity extends beyond this specific topic and into the realm of rights and constitutionality. Robinson supporters have also expressed their views that academic freedom is a right that enables scholars to express diverse perspectives over contentious topics, free from the intimidation of politically repressive campaigns.
If the case against Professor Robinson leads to ADL censorship, it could easily lead down a slippery slope that would expose academics to repressive tactics toward an endless variety of controversial issues.

 

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