Middle East studies in the News
Letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks Regarding Serious Concerns About Vetting Procedure for DeCal Courses at UC Berkeley
Dear Chancellor Dirks,
We are 43 Jewish, civil rights and education advocacy organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of supporters, including many within the UC Berkeley community, who are deeply concerned about a student-taught, credit-bearing course entitled "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" that is currently being offered as one of the academic senate-approved DeCal courses at UC Berkeley this semester. We believe that this course violates the Regents Policy on Course Content, which specifically prohibits using the classroom "as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest" or for "political indoctrination." Furthermore, it appears that compliance with the Regents Policy is not even a requirement of the present procedure for vetting DeCal courses, allowing for the unbridled misuse of the classroom by politically-motivated instructors. This state of affairs requires rectification.
A review of the syllabus of "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis" reveals that the course's objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government's criteria for antisemitism, and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it:
The political bias and tendentiousness of the course syllabus is not surprising in light of the extreme anti-Zionist political orientation and behavior of both the course's student instructor and its faculty advisor. Paul Hadweh, the student instructor, is an active member of UCB's Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an avowedly anti-Zionist group that advocates for the elimination of the Jewish state and promotes BDS on campus. Senior Lecturer Hatem Bazian, faculty advisor for the course, is a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is "the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students," placing a "heavy emphasis on supporting and helping coordinate the activity of Students for Justice in Palestine". In addition, on multiple occasions Bazian has openly expressed the view that it is legitimate to bring anti-Zionist activism into the classroom or other academic settings.
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.
In 2014, UC Provost Aimee Dorr issued two statements reaffirming the University of California's commitment to enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content for courses taught by both students and faculty. However, an examination of the vetting procedure for DeCal courses reveals that at no stage of the process is a course ever evaluated for its compliance with the Regents Policy. Indeed, that policy is noticeably absent from the list of UC Policies that student instructors are required to abide by and from the checklist they must fill out when submitting proposals to teach a DeCal course; it is noticeably absent from the list of requirements that faculty advisors and department chairs must comply with when their students apply to teach DeCal courses; and, most surprisingly, it is noticeably absent from the list of criteria used by members of the UCB Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction (COCI) when they are reviewing DeCal course proposals — and in fact, all new course proposals.
Omitting any assessment of whether a DeCal course — or any credit-bearing course — complies with the Regents Policy on Course Content and is free from "the advance of partisan interest" or "political indoctrination" not only allows for the unbridled politicization and corruption of the academic mission of the university, it opens the classroom to the basest kind of political hatred and intolerance, which cannot help but degrade the campus climate for all students.
In order to address this situation, we urge you to take the following steps as soon as possible:
Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter. We look forward to hearing from you.
Academic Council for Israel
Cc: Carol Christ, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost UC Berkeley
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