U.S. academics and institutions are being monitored for anti-Israeli bias by a Philadelphia-based think tank's Web site launched Wednesday.
Campus Watch cites UC Berkeley as one campus among 14, including San Francisco State University and Stanford University, targeted for espousing anti-Israeli sentiment.
The site's organizers will monitor over 250 universities nationwide, but will focus on UC Berkeley and other key institutions, which have been in the media spotlight because of campus activity related to the Middle East.
UC Berkeley officials declined to comment on the university's inclusion on the list.
Campus Watch also lists Snehal Shingavi, a UC Berkeley graduate student in the English department—along with seven other professors from universities across the country—as individuals who contribute to American academic bias against Israel.
Shingavi, who is teaching a class on "Palestine and the Poetics of Resistance" said the Web site was "sinister" and would discourage the free flow of ideas, especially in academics.
"(Campus Watch) creates a climate in which people are afraid to say what they think and teach what they are teaching," Shingavi said. "It was designed to chill academic speech. It carries with it an implicit threat that not only are you being monitored but that there are some kind of implicit consequences."
The Campus Watch Web site, www.campus-watch.org, said the organization was started by American scholars to identify and "reverse the damage already caused by the activist/scholars on American campuses" for their "misconceptions" about the Middle East.
"The idea here is to create a clearinghouse for information so if you're a student on a campus, it's fairly easy to find that information," said Martin Kramer, an author whose book inspired the Web site.
Some students at UC Berkeley said the organization serves an important role in addressing "biases" on campus.
"With the volatile situation in the Middle East, there needs to be a sense of objectivity," said UC Berkeley senior Oren Lazar, an Israel Action Committee member who reported information to Campus Watch. "I hope to educate the community that it is being presented (with) bias."
But Shingavi said the Web site does not consider more relevant factors like his class's progress or student reception to his teaching.
"(Campus Watch) doesn't pretend to be a debate or conversation," Shingavi said. "It just says these professors are a problem."
Some UC Berkeley professors said monitoring academics was a source of concern and could hinder freedom of expression.
"If they produce blacklists of individuals then this is a very dangerous development that will affect people outside the circles of Middle East (scholars) eventually," said history professor Beshara Doumani. "It is designed to harass and intimidate free speech, and it should be a concern to anyone who values academic freedom."
But Kramer said while academic freedom is important, it should not extend to professors who enter into the public sphere.
"When scholars publish in newspapers or attend rallies or advise governments—all that is out in the public domain," Kramer said. "We should be subjecting academics to the same criticism as public officials."
The Web site includes biographies of professors and links to articles about them and the targeted universities.