Concerned Members of UCSB Academic Community

Against the Current, No. 141, July/August 2009

CONCERNED MEMBERS OF the UCSB academic community set up the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB and the following website, which has full details on the specifics of the case:

“Toward the end of February 2009, Sociology and Global Studies Professor William Robinson received notice from the Academic Senate’s Charges Committee that two of his students had filed charges against him. The students alleged that course material Prof. Robinson had circulated to his class via the course listserv, criticizing Israel’s then-ongoing siege on Gaza, comprised anti-Semitism. Professor Robinson also received a letter from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to this effect. The student complaints (Complaint 1 & Complaint 2) included claims and rationales that exactly mirrored those included in the ADL letter.

[The course material at issue in the complaints included an editorial written by a Jewish journalist condemning Israel’s invasion of Gaza and images of the bloody consequences of the siege on Gaza juxtaposed with images from the Nazi siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. A 2003 Haaretz article documented that German military tactics in that battle have been studied by Israeli officers for use against Palestinian resistance — ed.]

“Alleging that the circulation of this course material caused them to drop his class, the students in their complaints claimed the subject of the email was not relevant to the course. The course title was ‘Sociology of Globalization’ and the course curriculum covered contemporary, global conflicts and struggles…

“According to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s 2008-9 General Catalog: Sociology 130SG: Sociology of Globalization is an ‘Introduction to the sociological study of globalization. Survey of principal theories and debates in globalization studies, with a focus on economic, political, and cultural transnational processes, gender/race/class and globalization, transnational social movements, and local-global linkages (our emphasis).’ Needless to say, WAR is a political transnational process.

“The crucial issue here is ACADEMIC FREEDOM. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)’s statement on academic freedom in the classroom: ‘If an instructor cannot stimulate discussion and encourage critical thought by drawing analogies or parallels the vigor and vibrancy of classroom discussion will be stultified,’ and ‘Ideas that are germane to a subject under discussion in a classroom cannot be censored because a student with particular religious or political beliefs might be offended’….”