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 congruent images from Nazi concentration camps in the 1930s (a not uncommon understanding of Israel-Palestine relations, as this 2003 Haaretz article and recent ADBUSTERS piece demonstrates). 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.
After receipt of the two student complaints, the Academic Senate Charges Officer requested a formal written response to the allegations from Professor Robinson. According to the formal complaint procedures as set out by the Campus Procedures for Enforcement of the Faculty Code of Conduct, upon receipt of a complaint, the Charges Officer is simply to notify the accused faculty and then to form an ad hoc Charges Committee to initially assess whether the complaint is frivolous or unfounded. If the ad hoc Committee determines the complaints are frivolous or unfounded, the charges are to be dismissed immediately without further involvement of the accused faculty member. Only in the event that the ad hoc Charges Committee’s investigation cannot conclude the charges are frivolous should the professor be asked for a written response. In this case, Professor Robinson was asked for a written response before such ad hoc Committee was even formed. The Academic Senate is only now convening the ad hoc Committee. See Professor Geoff Raymond’s Memo for a full description of the various ways in which the Charges Officer appears to have violated procedure or acted inappropriately.
Upon notification of this affair, several professors in Sociology and Global Studies have expressed support for Professor Robinson. More than 15 of Professor Robinon’s students from the relevant class also wrote to express their support. Now, a large group of undergraduate and graduate students concerned with academic freedom have banded together to formally organize against the attacks on Professor Robinson.
Check the home page for updates on the case as they become available.
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