Anti-Defamation League’s national director personally pressured UCSB representatives to act against faculty member
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman held a confidential meeting in early March with University of California officials on campus to pressure them to investigate charges of “anti-Semitism” against sociology professor William I. Robinson.
The meeting included Dean of Students Michael Young, a second dean, and at least seven faculty members.
Some of the meeting participants told Robinson that Foxman, who was in Santa Barbara to meet with local funders, requested the meeting at UCSB for the sole purpose of demanding that university officials investigate Robinson for introducing materials critical of Israeli state policies in a course on globalization in January.
The materials included a photo essay that Robinson forwarded to students from the Internet and that had been circulating in the public realm. The photos compared images of Israeli abuse against Palestinians during the recent military invasion of Gaza with Nazi abuses during the holocaust. Two students took offense at the images and withdrew from the course, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to pressure the university to investigate Robinson for “anti-Semitism.”
Robinson said participants at the meeting with Foxman were unaware beforehand of the ADL’s intentions. He said the attendees assumed the meeting had been convened to discuss university efforts to hire a chair for a Jewish studies program. “But when the meeting started, Foxman made clear that the only agenda point was his demand that I be investigated,” Robinson said.
Robinson said such intimidation against critics of Israel is standard ADL policy, but Foxman’s personal intervention at UCSB constitutes a marked escalation of pressure tactics that sets a dangerous precedent for the future of academic freedom here and at other universities.
Foxman, 69, has been director of the Washington, D.C.-based ADL since 1987 and has worked with the organization since 1965. He is an international lobbyist who has met frequently with national and world leaders, including all U.S. presidents since Richard Nixon.
Members of the ADL’s Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Office — which serves Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties — accompanied Foxman to the meeting on campus.
It’s unclear what effect Foxman’s pressure had on university officials. However, the Academic Senate has opened a formal investigation of the charges against Robinson.
The decision to investigate the professor spurred an angry backlash on campus. Students formed a Committee to Defend Academic Freedom and have created an online blog to coordinate efforts to cease the investigation against Robinson.
For detailed information about the Robinson case, visit the committee’s blog at http://www.sb4af.wordpress.com.
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