Letter from Department Chairs at UCSB Opposing Case Against Prof. Robinson

Here is a letter signed by the chairs of 19 departments on the UCSB campus:


To:     Joel Michaelsen, Chair, Academic Senate, UCSB
Date:    May 18, 2009

We the undersigned department chairs at UCSB are concerned that improper procedures may have occurred in connection with the case of Professor William I. Robinson.  The Academic Senate’s handling of complaints by two students against Professor Robinson for emailed articles and a message that he sent to his sociology class in January did not follow usual procedures, namely urging students to direct complaints to the department chair or dean for consideration. One does not have to agree with the content of the email to appreciate the adverse implications for academic freedom on this campus resulting from the decision to initiate a formal charges process against Professor Robinson. A substantive injustice has already resulted from the way these complaints were handled.

Moreover, we are concerned that external pressures may have influenced the way this case has been managed, possibly further violating campus procedures and Professor Robinson’s rights.

We therefore ask that the Academic Senate:

•    disclose the process by which its Charges Committee decided to initiate a formal charges process in response to student complaints, including an explanation about why students were not encouraged to take their concerns to the chair of the department and/or relevant dean.

•    clarify the procedure for handling complaints by students who disagree with course content and materials presented or distributed by their professor

•    reaffirm the importance of academic freedom at UCSB as defined by the Academic Personnel Manual – 010.

CC:    Gene Lucas, Executive Vice Chancellor
Melvin Oliver, Dean, Social Sciences
David Marshall, Dean, Humanities
Pierre Wiltzius, Dean, Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences
Susan Mazer, Chair, Committee on Committees
Sarah Fenstermaker, Chair, Committee on Privilege and Tenure
Gayle Binion, Chair, Committee on Rules, Jurisdiction and Elections
Vicki Scott, Chair, Council on Faculty Issues and Awards
Martin Scharlemann, Academic Senate Charges Officer

Verta Taylor, Sociology
Eileen Boris, Feminist Studies
Lisa Hajjar, Law and Society
Giles Gunn, Global and International Studies
Michael Stohl, Communications
Juan Vicente Palerm, Chicana & Chicano Studies
Elisabeth Weber, German and Slavic Studies
Jeffrey Stewart, Black Studies
Daphne Bugental, Psychology
Colin Gardner, Art
Katharina Schreiber, Anthropology
Simon Williams, Theater and Dance
Lisa Parks, Film and Media Studies
Ken Mouré, History
Diane Fujino, Asian American Studies
Bill Powell, East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies
Ulrich Keller, History of Art and Architecture
Jon Snyder, French and Italian
Alan Liu, English

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