Human Rights

UC System Definitively Bans Israel-Boycott Advocacy in Classroom

The AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to “investigate, document, educate about, and combat antisemitic behavior on college and university campuses,” announced Monday that the University of California system had affirmed that professors were prohibited from promoting anti-Israel boycotts in class.

The affirmation came in the form of a letter from the university’s provost, Aimee Dorr:

I understand from your letter that you are concerned that UC faculty may promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the classroom and that you are seeking clarification as to whether the Regents Policy on Course Content applies to UC faculty members. In response to your question, the Regents Policy on Course Content does apply to UC faculty members.

The Regents Policy states that “[The Regents] 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.”

AMCHA’s letter asking for clarification was signed by 22 organizations, including Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The letter read, in part:

As you know, on December 4th the UAW 2865, the UC graduate student union representing 13,000 graduate instructors, voted on a resolution calling for the union to join the international campaign for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” against Israel and urging its graduate student members to pledge their personal participation in the academic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars. In light of this vote, we are especially grateful for your having sent to all UC Chancellors a memorandum enumerating the university policies which prohibit graduate student instructors from using university classrooms to promote anti-Israel propaganda or an antisemitic boycott of the Jewish state…

Although we recognize that faculty have every right as private citizens to support student BDS initiatives and to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, we are concerned that these same faculty may try to bring their enmity towards the Jewish state and the promotion of efforts to harm it into their university classrooms and conference halls. Unfortunately, those faculty who misuse the university in this way contribute to the creation of a hostile and threatening environment for many Jewish students, who report feeling harassed and intimidated by their professors and isolated from their peers.

One of the leaders of the fight against anti-Israel boycotts in academia is Prof. William Jacobson of Cornell University and the Legal Insurrection blog. In response to the University of California’s clarification, Jacobson wrote:

That is a huge win for those who seek to prevent faculty (and grad teachers) from using their positions of power over students to enforce their political activism. …

In a better world, none of this would have been necessary.

But it’s not a better world, it’s a world in which academic freedom is actively undermined by BDS advocates, and where academia is exploited as a branch of political warfare against Israel and its supporters.

Having completely politicized every aspect of campus life — from academic programs to the selection of hummus in the dining hall — BDS student and faculty activists have forfeited any right to complain about the political pushback.

In Why Are Student Leaders and Jewish Bruins Under Attack at UCLA?, which was published in the June 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Tessa Nath described the hostile environment created for pro-Israel students at UCLA, a school in the UC system, by proponents of the Israel boycott.

For myself and other Jewish and pro-Israel students, the atmosphere is poisonous. We feel attacked, ostracized, and threatened. Our identities are being rejected and our right to express our beliefs endangered. Our academic performance is being harmed unjustly; and our supporters are now targets of hate campaigns, baseless accusations, and unfair political and social retaliation. Yet, we cannot give up hope that the situation can be changed, or that it can teach us something important. It can be an isolating experience wading through all of the social and mass media reports about the terrors at UCLA right now. But ultimately, they remind us of the need for competent, strong, and open-minded voices that can temper hate and bring us back to a place of tolerant coexistence.

[Photo: Joseph Wouk / YouTube ]