Twelve University of California San Diego professors have sent a letter  to California State Controller John Chiang concerning allegations made by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and seven other education watchdog groups and pro-Israel organizations regarding San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi's recent trip to the Middle East.
The scholars say they fear a taxpayer-funded trip that Abdulhadi called a "political solidarity tour," supported by SFSU President Leslie Wong, is an "abuse of California taxpayers' money." The letter warns that "justification of this (trip) as 'legitimate research' is outrageous and so broadens the term 'research' as to make it meaningless."
"The letter underscores the fact that allowing public educational funds to be used for political advocacy not only defrauds California taxpayers, it corrupts the very mission of the University," said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, a campus anti-Semitism watchdog group.
Last month, Watchdog.org reported  that a California Public Records Act inquiry by AMCHA revealed that Abdulhadi received more than $7,000 from San Francisco State University to meet with members of known terrorist organizations. SFSU offered Watchdog.org a generic response that the university will investigate "any allegations that a member of the University community misused state funds."
The Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Legal Support published an unsigned statement  bearing no school letterhead, claiming that SFSU had exonerated Abdulhadi of any wrongdoing. Watchdog.org received confirmation by the university that the statement was legitimate.
"The records for Professor Abdulhadi's travel have been reviewed, and they comply with established rules without fault or violation. Therefore, we conclude that the allegations made against Professor Abdulhadi have no merit," read a statement later posted  by University Communications.
In what can be construed as a direct attack against the groups who raised the concerns, the release further noted, "San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others."
Disappointed by the university decision, AMCHA and the groups who lodged the initial complaint also sent a letter  to Chiang, the California state controller.
"It appears that the university is defending the professor's personal advocacy mission as 'research' and clearing her of all wrongdoing," the groups told Chiang. "We are therefore turning to you and requesting that you investigate this potentially fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars."
Both letters contend that Abdulhadi's own words constitute an admission of wrongdoing.
At a March 6, public event at SFSU, Abdulhadi refers to her trip as a "political solidarity tour" whose main purpose was to promote "resolute actions in support of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel."