Forty-three Jewish and education advocacy groups today demanded that UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks take immediate steps to overhaul the course review process that allowed a student-taught, credit bearing course entitled "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" to be offered this semester. Not only is the course in clear violation of the University's Policy on Course Content that prohibits using the classroom for partisan interest or political indoctrination, say the groups, but the policy was not even consulted in the procedure for vetting this, or any other, student-taught course.
The student instructor is an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that advocates for Israel's elimination, and the course faculty advisor is well-known anti-Zionist activist Hatem Bazian. Bazian is cofounder of SJP, a vocal supporter of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and formerly raised funds for KindHearts, a group the U.S. government shut down for ties to terrorist organization Hamas.
"A review of the syllabus of "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" reveals that the course's objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are uniformly politically motivated, unfortunately meet our government's criteria for anti-Semitism, and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it," wrote the groups in the letter composed and coordinated by AMCHA Initiative.
"What an egregious and unconscionable abuse of the classroom," stated Tammi Rossman Benjamin, AMCHA's director and a UC faculty member. "And sadly this is not the first time anti-Zionist students and professors have successfully gamed the UC system to inject anti-Israel propaganda and anti-Semitic hate onto the campus in the guise of academics."
A similar anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic course, "Palestine & Israel: Settler Colonialism and Apartheid," was taught by an SJP member at UC Riverside last year.
"Even more troubling than the course's clear attempts to promote a partisan interest and indoctrinate students is the fact that 'Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis' was able to successfully pass through a review process overseen by an administrative staff and members of the UCB academic senate. Of the 194 DeCal courses taught this semester, this is the only one that is blatantly politically motivated and directed. The egregious anti-Zionist bias of the syllabus, along with publicly available information about the extreme political bias and activism of the course instructor and faculty advisor, should have raised many red flags for the staff and faculty members responsible for overseeing the DeCal program. We believe that had this course been properly evaluated in light of the Regents Policy on Course Content, it would never have been offered," added the groups.
To prevent similar courses from being offered again, the groups demanded that Dirks immediately do the following:
- Publicly affirm UCB's commitment to enforcing the Regents Policy on Course content in the vetting of all courses taught by students and faculty.
- Direct the staff responsible for the DeCal program to ensure that compliance with the Regents Policy is part of the check lists required of student instructors, faculty advisors and department chairs.
- Direct the UCB Academic Senate to ensure that all future courses reviewed by COCI, whether taught by students or faculty, must be carefully evaluated for their compliance with the Regents Policy on Course Content.
AMCHA's 2016 mid-year study, which revealed a 45% increase in campus anti-Semitism, found that calls for Israel's elimination on campus tripled, and that expression highly correlated with actions that harm Jewish students. In addition, AMCHA's 2015 and 2016 studies found that anti-Zionism -- particularly BDS, anti-Zionist student groups, such as SJP, and faculty boycotters, such as Bazian -- are the strongest predictors of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.
A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to combating, monitoring and documenting anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.