June 25, 2009
After withholding recommendation of charges committee, UCSB drops case against Robinson
Date: June 24, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Nearly five months after opening an investigation of University of California sociology professor William I. Robinson for alleged faculty misconduct, university officials abruptly announced today that it has dismissed all charges and terminated the case.
In fact, an Ad Hoc Committee set up by the Academic Senate to investigate the allegations had already reached the conclusion on May 15 that the charges against Robinson were without merit. The Committee is “unanimous in finding that his sending the email is in accord with the principles of academic freedom, especially when teaching a class whose content is the sociology of globalization,” stated the report.
Yet, remarkably, the top-level administration kept these results secret for six more weeks, dragging Robinson deeper into public scrutiny and further tarnishing the university’s own image. It was only on June 24 that executive vice chancellor Gene Lucas informed Robinson, without any explanation for the delay, that he “accepted the findings of the Charges Committee” and terminated the matter. Read the rest of this entry »
June 20, 2009
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education demands
UCSB cease investigation of sociology professor
Date: June 18, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – FIRE – a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that works to protect student and faculty rights at college campuses nationwide – has demanded that the University of California at Santa Barbara cease its investigation of sociology professor William I. Robinson.
In a June 10 letter to Chancellor Henry Yang, FIRE said the Robinson case constitutes a “serious threat” to the rights of every faculty member at UCSB. Read the rest of this entry »
June 16, 2009
Israel advocacy group “Stand With Us” says pressure against sociology professor sets a precedent for action on campuses worldwide
Date: June 16, 2009
Please Distribute Widely
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Roz Rothstein, international director for Stand With Us, told the University of California at Santa Barbara’s student newspaper, The Daily Nexus, that the investigation against sociology professor William I. Robinson could set a precedent for more action against Israel critics at other universities.
In a June 4 article, the Nexus reported that Stand With Us sees the Robinson case as a potential model for the future.
“Her organization is particularly interested, Rothstein said, because this could be a major building point for academic freedom cases around the world,” wrote staff writer Elliott Rosenfeld. Read the rest of this entry »
June 9, 2009
Faculty Legislature votes to examine how charges against sociology professor were handled and recommend policy changes
Date: June 8, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Academic Senate at the University of California at Santa Barbara approved motions to investigate evident mismanagement of student complaints against sociology professor William I. Robinson and recommend changes in Senate procedures to avoid improprieties in the future.
The Senate approved the motions in an open meeting on June 4, after more than 100 faculty members across campus, plus 20 department heads, signed a petition protesting the university’s handling of accusations against Robinson. Read the rest of this entry »
June 8, 2009
Opinions and Letters
Santa Barbara New Press
William I. Robinson
May 31, 2009 8:07 AM
Academic freedom is under attack at the University of California.
The university mission itself hangs in the balance as university officials pursue charges of faculty misconduct against me for having introduced course material critical of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Officials at UC Santa Barbara, where I teach sociology, have engaged in disturbing irregularities in handling the allegations against me, and they may be bending to pressure from prominent groups in the Israel lobby.
Last January, I introduced Internet material into my course on global affairs that included an article critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and a photo essay that juxtaposed graphic images of Nazi atrocities against Jews and Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.
Some press reports have mistakenly said that I compared these graphic images. I did not. I forwarded the photo essay from the Internet, where it had been circulating in the public realm for several weeks.
Two students (out of 80 enrolled) objected to the photo essay and withdrew from the course. In conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the students lodged a grievance against me with the Academic Senate, charging that the material is anti-Semitic and unrelated to the course.
The charges are without merit. Criticism of the Israeli state cannot be equated with anti-Semitism. Moreover, it defies logic to argue that discussion of the Israeli-Palestine conflict is unrelated to a course on global affairs.
Nevertheless, the Academic Senate initiated disciplinary proceedings against me. That action so outraged students on campus that they formed a Committee to Defend Academic Freedom, which is cherished as the life-blood of any university.
As defined by the American Association of University Professors, academic freedom includes the right of faculty to openly discuss all subjects in the classroom free from institutional censorship, discipline or other forms of restrictive interference in teaching, research, speaking and publishing, wherever the search for truth and understanding may lead. Effective teaching requires broad ability for professors to select and approach course content and illustrate its significance, such as drawing analogies between current and historical events.
It would undermine the mission if we did not attempt to jar students into critical thinking — even when it makes students uncomfortable to the point of outrage — by introducing controversial material in the classroom.
From the start, the Israel lobby has worked with the students and has placed direct pressure on university officials.
The ADL sent a protest letter to me and to university officials on Feb. 9, before the students even lodged their grievances with the Academic Senate.
Then, on March 9, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman personally convened a meeting on campus with university faculty and administrators to urge the university to prosecute me. Two weeks later, the Academic Senate Charges Office told me it would open a formal investigation into the student allegations.
The ADL pressure comes as little surprise. Decades ago, that organization led a sincere fight against anti-Semitism. In recent years, however, it has become little more than a lobbying front for the Israeli state to censure any effort to expose the Palestinian plight and to stifle debate on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
There is well-documented history of ADL’s improper and illegal political surveillance and harassment of those who voice objection to Israeli policies. That includes a scandal in California in the mid-1990s in which the ADL illegally hired police officers to spy on several hundred organizations and thousands of individuals.
Outside groups with political agendas have no business interfering in university matters to control the content of education. Such McCarthyist interference undermines the integrity of the university and spurs an environment of intimidation and censorship on campus that will affect not just me, but the entire university community. It sets a dangerous precedent that will make faculty and students fearful to raise controversial issues in the classroom in the future.
I expect to be fully vindicated in this matter. But more than that, I call on the university to commit itself publicly and in the strongest possible terms to upholding academic freedom and the right of all members of the university community to discuss controversial issues in an environment free of censorship and the threat of sanctions.
The author is professor of sociology, global studies, and Latin American studies at UCSB.
June 6, 2009
Below is the text of Professor Geoff Raymond’s talk at the CDAF-UCSB sponsored forum on academic freedom that took place on May 21, 2009. Check back soon for video of all the panelists’ talks.
In Defense of Academic Freedom: Some notes on the Academic Senate’s handling of the case against Professor William Robinson
Department of Sociology
Speech delivered 5/21 as part of a panel on Academic Freedom:
I have been asked here tonight to talk about the specifics of the Robinson case because I became involved in it through various departmental and senate positions I held when the complaints emerged. I am director of undergrad studies in Sociology, and a member of the Academic Senate’s committee on committees. I mention this because I think it is important to know from the start that I am active member of the academic senate, and a faculty member committed to the teaching mission of this university. I participate in the academic senate because believe it offers one of the few genuine instances of participatory democracy one can find in contemporary American life; and the shared governance in which participates has been vital the UCs success as a vibrant – and open – intellectual community. As I hope this brief statement makes clear, I believe in the work of the Senate, and it is my disappointment in its processes on this occasion that has prompted me to speak out.
Read the rest of this entry »