Campus Watch in the Media
The Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA) Project
by Jess Ghannam
Subject: [Al-Awda-SF] The Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA) Project
Dear students, faculty, staff and activists:
The National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) has launched a national project to proactively combat the assault on academic freedom and civil liberties on US college campuses and to challenge attempts to silence those critical of US policies. As one aspect of this multi-faceted national project, the Defense of Civil Liberties in Academia ("DCRA") is providing four initial $500 grants to registered student organizations on March 1, 2005, and is encouraging all students, faculty, staff, and community activists to join together in formulating strategies to address this expanding problem.
Contact information and deadlines for grant applications along with project details and initial list of program supporters and participants are presented below.
Please join and support in any way you can.
THE DEFENSE OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN ACADEMIA (DCRA) PROJECT
A national project of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA)
"No one professor should stand alone and no one student or student organization should be isolated anywhere in the United States!"
Contents: (1) Contact Information (2) Introduction (3) Background (4) Project Details (5) List of Endorsements & Support
(1) DEADLINES & CONTACT INFORMATION:
Winter 2005 Grant Application Deadline: February 14, 2005
For more information, to obtain a grant application or to join this project, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Zeina Zaatari
Or you may contact Lara Kiswani at: (email@example.com)
Today, Arab American students, faculty, and community members are facing a coordinated assault on their academic freedom on an unprecedented scale spanning local, state and national levels. The campaign principally threatens academic freedom and also infringes on first amendment rights. In many cases, the assaults on academic freedom have jeopardized the well being of individuals and organizations in our community, reaching the point of inciting violence as well as calling for faculty dismissals and student expulsions. Worse yet, the problematic tenor of this campaign has reached such a high level of normalization in dominant discourses that it is now accepted in many forms of national and local media and is being incorporated into new legislations.
The systematic and multi-faceted nature of these assaults requires the immediate institution of a proactive and nationally coordinated response. To this end, the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) has initiated the formation of the Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA) Project.
The "DCRA" Project is a national network with the purpose of proactively defending and securing the rights of the Arab American academic community, students, faculty and staff. It is an open project that encourages participation from student organizations and individuals, faculty, staff, and community members from across the United States. The DCRA will coordinate and build alliances with similar projects and campaigns to defend the academic freedom and constitutional rights of all people.
The goal is to challenge - through a variety of legal, grassroots, and institutional means - private campaigns and government programs that try to stigmatize, silence, or revoke the rights of Arab American students, faculty or community members. The DCRA will institute proactive empowerment via a nationally coordinated plan that includes all sectors of the academic community. Facsimile, e-mail, and phone messages in support of a given professor or objecting to hate speech, etc., are limited in effect when they are isolated from a comprehensive national response.
We believe that no one professor should stand alone, and no one student or student organization should be isolated!
It is true that our community in the United States is horrified at the level of hate and discrimination that is permeating US college campuses and that isolated protest campaigns are waged more often than before. On the other hand, the situation has become so normalized that almost uniformly many Arab American students no longer bother to report incidents of hate speech, incitement and/or discrimination. These incidents have become so common that students ‘know' that remedy is not likely. More often than not, institutions either ignore reported complaints or engage in processes that are ultimately bereft of significant long-term institutional remedy. In some instances, some university administrators have themselves joined these campaigns.
Similarly, the rights of professors are challenged both in and outside of academic institutions. It is no longer news that many faculty members, such as Joseph Massad of Columbia University and Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley, have been attacked on a regular basis. In fact, the campaign against Joseph Massad and others continues to this day. As the likes of Daniel Pipes and others seek to curtail academic freedom by targeting those who teach, speak or write alternative perspectives, professors either risk their positions, don't get hired, get threatened with reprimand, or are placed outside of the framework of academic advancement.
Because academic institutions produce many of the political and theoretical discourses that shape society, the normalization of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims creates a dangerous precedent that is reflected on the national level. Last year, legislation (HR 3077) was passed in the House that would allow federal monitoring and regulation of the curricula of all area studies programs that receive government funding, including those that focus on the Arab World. If, for example, this legislation passes in the Senate as well, it could potentially have the effect of criminalizing any challenge to Israel as a form of hate and anti-Semitism. Furthermore, new campus and non-campus organizations are engaged in monitoring, reporting on, surveying and antagonizing students and faculty members. University after university is making it more difficult for our students to organize, hold conferences and educational forums, or discuss their concerns. Virtually all conferences on Palestine today face unprecedented nationally coordinated opposition and intimidation that routine tasks, such as reserving space, have become difficult. And Arab American students and faculty are required to denounce their own identity, history and culture or else they are struck with charges of anti-Semitism and terrorism.
From systematic attacks on professors and academic freedom, to the lack of institutional support for our students, to legislative attempts to mute and curtail discourse, academic institutions are increasingly being transformed into instruments of intimidation and marginalization. Therefore, it is now more urgent than ever to launch this national project to proactively institutionalize change from coast to coast and challenge intimidation and censorship in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
(4) PROJECT DETAILS:
In forming the Defense of Civil Rights in Academia project, the NCA is initiating the following:
1. The immediate formation of a national academic defense committee composed of students, student organizations, faculty, and community members to function as a strategic proactive national team that will map out strategies, identify issues, launch defense campaigns, and counter the existing assault on multiple levels. A national website is currently being constructed for this project to function as an informational and organizational hub to include data, campaign material, analysis, and suggestions for proactive steps.
2. Student Organization Support Grant: The intent is to provide financial support to student organizations on various campuses in the country that are actively challenging institutionalized discrimination and that work on education and awareness around issues of concern to the Arab American community. The NCA wants to empower students as the current leaders on their campuses and the future leaders of the community. A grant application intended for this purpose has been prepared for national distribution. The deadline for this round is February 14, 2005, as we will be awarding four groups by March 1, 2005, with $500 each. This is an ongoing support Grant that will expand in the coming semesters in number and amount. Subsequent application deadlines for the Fall and Spring terms of each following year will be announced. Although this first award is preceded by a short announcement period of one month, in the future there will be more time for students to prepare their applications.
3. The national academic defense committee will formulate mechanisms of discussions, oversee grant making, and act as the liaison between the NCA and various campuses. The committee will have a smaller review board of 7 to 11 members to carry out the required executive daily tasks. The larger committee will also contribute to, and help facilitate, fundraising efforts for this purpose
4. The defense committee will actively challenge the targeting of professors, faculty and students by holding all institutions, private pressure groups and government entities accountable to their responsibilities of fostering atmospheres free of hate, discrimination and racism, including seeking legal action when possible and appropriate. The committee will hold meetings, conferences, and other means of discussions as necessary.
5. The committee seeks to create and engage in long-term programs to create institutional change by establishing step-by-step tasks to accomplish concrete changes throughout US campuses, including institutional structures that provide a space for our students (be it internships at minority student centers, liaisons with the office of student affairs, culturally sensitive counselors from our communities, language courses, departmental majors and minors, etc…). These and more are needed on all campuses so that gains captured one day are not withdrawn the next. Of particular interest is the creation of a continuum of support and accumulation of experience and gains that can translate individual effort to institutionalized systems that would secure continuity and growth as opposed to sporadic battles for mere recognition and survival.
6. Additionally, the NCA is currently working on an Arab American Student Activist Scholarship. The aim is to provide financial aid to Arab American student activists who contribute meaningfully to the Arab American student community on their campus while successfully completing their studies. The primary focus of this scholarship will be student activists as opposed to the traditional requirement of excellence and need. Details about this particular grant will unfold in the coming year, as it is currently a work in progress.
For more information, grant application, or to join this project, please see contact information above.
(5) LIST OF ENDORSEMENTS AND SUPPORT
The following are initial DCRA Project supporters, listed alphabetically by last name, comprising faculty members, writers & researchers, students, and activists throughout the United States. All listed institutions and organizations are expressly for identification purposes only.
Feras Abou-Galala, President, Middle-Eastern Cultural Association (MCA), Ohio State University * Nasser Abufarha, Ph.D. candidate, University of Wisconsin, Madison * As'ad AbuKhalil, Ph.D., California State University, Stanislaus * Nader Abuljebain, writer, Free Palestine Alliance, Los Angeles * Hussein Agrama, Ph.D. candidate, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C. * Munir Al-Akash, writer and publisher, Boston * Leena Al-Arian, daughter of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, University of Southern Florida * Musa Al-Hindi, Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Nebraska * Ban Al-Wardi, Esq., chapter president and National Board Member, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Los Angeles * Reem Awad-Rashmawi, Esq., Director, NCA Al-Kitab Project, California * Fadwa El Guindi, Ph.D., Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. * Fadhil Al-Kazily, Ph.D., California State University, Sacramento * Tammy Aranki, Arab Students Union, University of California, Berkeley * Masad Arbid, M.D., physician and writer, Los Angeles * Naseer Aruri, Ph.D., Chancellor Professor (Emeritus), University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Massachusetts * Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park * Waleed Bader, President, Arab Muslim American Federation, New York * Khalil Barhoum, Ph.D., Stanford University * Hanna Batarseh, Chapter president, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Sacramento, California * Hatem Bazian, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley * Muna Coobtee, Esq., Free Palestine Alliance, Los Angeles * Souad Dajani, Ph.D., writer and researcher * Mohammed Dalbah, journalist, Washington, D.C. * Zahi Damouni, Ph.D., Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, San Diego * Lara Deeb, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine * Osama Doumani, Ph.D., writer, California * Rayan Elamine, Program Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Francisco * Ashraf Elbayoumi, Ph.D., researcher, writer, Washington, D.C./Cairo * Nada Elia, Ph.D., Washington State University, Washington * Haithem El-Zabri, Solidarity Design, Los Angeles * Ali Fattom, Ph.D., Washington, D.C. * Lina Fattom, Law student, George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C. * Jamil Fayez, M.D., Professor, Washington, D.C. * Jess Ghannam, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco * Ziad Hafez, Ph.D., economist, writer, Washington, D.C. * Elaine Hagopian, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Simmons College, Editor and contributor: Civil Rights in Peril: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims, Haymarket and Pluto Books, 2004, Boston * Tamara Hamdan, University of Southern California * Isma'il Kamal, Muslim Students Association, University of California, Davis * Laila Kassis, Network of Arab American Professionals, Boston * Shouki Kassis, Ph.D., American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania * Kamal Khalaf-Al-Tawil, M.D., physician and writer, Washington, D.C. * Rami Kishek, Ph.D., Maryland * Lara Kiswani, National Program Director, National Council of Arab Americans * Nabil Migalli, The Arab-American Forum, New Hampshire * Soheir Morsy, Ph.D., researcher & writer, Washington, D.C./Cairo * Eid Mustafa, M.D., F.A.C.S., Texas * Nadine Naber, Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor * Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D., Yale University, and Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Connecticut * Fadia Rafeedie, Esq., Free Palestine Alliance, Riverside, California * Ramiz Rafeedie, Esq., American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Francisco, California * Elias Rashmawi, National Coordinator, National Council of Arab Americans * George Saliba, Ph.D., Columbia University, New York * Michael Shahin, Esq., National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles * Omar Shakir, Co-President, Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, Stanford University * Michel Shehadeh, Committee for Justice, Los Angeles, California * Matthew Shenoda, M.F.A., College of Ethnic Studies, California State University, San Francisco * Nina Shoman, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), California State University, Sacramento * Mounzer Sleiman, Ph.D., writer, researcher, Washington, D.C. * Khalid Turaani, Executive Director of American Muslims for Jerusalem, Washington, D.C. * Zeina Zaatari, Ph.D., Defense of Civil Rights in Academia, Coordinator * Faith Zeadey, Ph.D., Professor Emerita (and current Adjunct Faculty), Worcester State College, Massachusetts
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