The University of California Berkeley has reinstated a student-taught course, "Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis," after suspending the class due to concerns that it was little more than anti-Israel propaganda, and complaints from Jewish groups.
As Bay Area public radio station KQED notes, the course, Ethnic Studies 198, was to be offered as part of UC Berkeley's "DeCal" curriculum, whose classes do not count towards major requirements but may be used to fill workload requirements.
In a letter Monday, Dean of Social Sciences Carla Hesse explained she had initially suspended the course "because it became apparent that neither the Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, nor I had been made aware" of the class or its syllabus.
She then asked the department chair, the faculty advisor, and the student teaching the course "to clarify how a course focused exclusively on Palestine was consistent with the academic mission of the Department of Ethnic Studies"; "to assess whether the course description and syllabus had a particular political agenda"; and to explain whether the course was "crossing over the line from teaching to political advocacy and organizing." She noted that she did not ask to review or approve the content of the course. Having received answers to her questions, including changes to the syllabus, she allowed the course to proceed.
Critics told the Los Angeles Times that they were still concerned about the course, since talking about "decolonizing" Israel was the same as calling for it to be destroyed. Proponents of the "Palestine" class, however, who called the initial suspension of the course an "act of discrimination," celebrated the dean's decision as a victory for academic freedom.
UC Berkeley senior Paul Hadweh, who is teaching the course, told the Times that he "wanted to create a space where we can read, think and speak critically about the question of Palestine." He blamed "pressure from people across the globe" for the course's suspension.