Below, you will find letters from the following students:
Veronica Montes, a 4-time Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson Joy Hylton, 7-time Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson Danny Armanino, Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson during the course at issue Former student in the course at issue A collective of UCSB alumni who received their Masters Degrees in the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program Amy Rosner, UCSB Alumna and former student of Professor Robinson An anonymous, former student from the course at issue A second anonymous, former student from the course at issue Another anonymous, former student from one of Prof. Robinson’s courses on Globalization An anonymous, current student in Prof. Robinson’s course on Latin America
Veronica Montes, a 4-time Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson:
To whom may it concern;
I’m writing this letter of support for Professor William I. Professor Robinson not only as a graduate student of the department of Sociology at UCSB and student whose Ph. D. committee is chaired by Professor Robinson, but as a Teaching Assistant who has served him four times. Over the last four years as Professor Robinson’s student and as his TA, I have had ample opportunity to work with him. Thus, I hold unique elements to assess Professor Robinson’s ethics, pedagogy, and professional and personal relations with students.
Professor Robinson’s ethics rely on his belief of justice and egalitarian power relations for all human beings regardless their race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, and social class. The cry “Justice for all” is what characterized Professor Robinson’s conduct both inside and outside the classroom. In this regards, Professor Robinson’s pedagogy aim is to create an environment in which students are exposed to material that may help them to stimulate their analytical and critical skills. For many students taking Professor Robinson’s courses is the first time they are exposed to challenging material not commonly found in the mainstream. Students encounter realities of poverty, interventions, wars, occupations, exploitation, genocide, and domination, just to mention a few of the many issues discussed in Professor Robinson’s courses. Confronting such realities can be disturbing and painful for many students. Yet, despite the contradictory sentiments that many students may face as a result of being exposed to challenging material, for many of those students this provocative teaching style brings fruitful outcomes. This assertion is corroborated in the following quotes that over the years I have compiled from different students in different courses I have assisted Professor Robinson with.
“This whole class has been an eye opening experience for me. It has instilled so much pride in me for being a black male and having immigrant parents. I truly now realize just how hard my parents worked for me to be able to take a class like this and realize the importance of an education, especially in a place that has the tendency to manipulate those who inhabit. I’m even going to get a tattoo that was inspired by me taking this class and learning about the hardships that the people in my parent’s homeland and my ancestors had to go through jus so I could one day write a paper like this. My parents are currently in the process of adopting two of my cousins who are immersed in a very impoverished area in Nigeria. They have been working on it for about a year now and hopefully it will all work out. All I can really say at this point is I really am glad I decided to take this course and its influence will always be with me…literally!” Global Inequalities Student, Spring 2007.
“When I was growing up, differences to me were apparent in schools, homes, clothes, jobs, cars, life opportunities, etc., but I never thought of these differences as inequalities. Instead, I associated these differences with our economic class and my parents lack in education. Since my parents had not received a high school or college education and were immigrants, I believed that those were the reasons for our economic status. After taking this course and classes like it I have realized that my parent’s inability to receive a higher education and their migration to the U.S was the result of inequalities in Mexico caused by capitalism and globalization”. Global Inequalities Student, Spring 2007.
“I now make me sad to say that I come from the U.S. I am no longer proud to say that I am an American, because being an American does not mean what I thought it meant.” Development and Social Change in Latin America Student, Spring 2008.
These abovementioned students’ quotes depict only a portion of what hundreds of students think about Professor Robinson. One of the main pedagogical qualities that students acknowledge about Professor Robinson is his love and passion for teaching as the following quote illustrates, “This was an amazing course and I feel very fortunate to have professors like Professor Robinson here at UCSB that are this passionate about their professions!” Global Inequalities, Spring 2007.
It is precisely this passion that highlights Professor Robinson’s interaction with students. When students see professors engaging not only with the theoretical discourse, but, above all, with the praxis of what they teach, a bond of trustfulness develops. This leads students to feel more comfortable engaging in conversations with professors, thus, it is his social compromised praxis what has made Professor Robinson to gain a special place in most of his students’ minds and hearts as the following quotes stresses out, “Thank you Professor Robinson, you are a truly well intended teacher, without people like you this world would have no chance for change” Global Inequalities, Spring 2007.
Over the last years as TA and a student of Professor Robinson I have witnessed that even in a provocative and challenging learning environment, tolerance and respect are always among Professor Robinson’s main characteristics. His classroom is free of censorship and his particular pedagogical style promotes an open and rigorous debate which brings thoughtful reflection even when controversial and topics of sensitive subjects are discussed. As a professor, Robinson never pressures, intimidates or coerces his students. This is corroborated when he tirelessly insists in every one of his courses that students must question every source of information, including himself.
Thus, when I read the accusations of these two students and especially how UCSB has mishandling this situation I was perplexed by the flaws of this case. First of all, there is no evidence of any structural and systematic intimidation of Professor Robinson in regards to the presentation or discussion of the material in question. As I mentioned earlier, I have served Professor Robinson four times as TA, so in these years I have learned that Professor Robinson used to bring newspaper articles, internet material, and other kind of information sources which may be relevant to the theme of the course. The aim of this material is to forge a provocative environment in which discussion may arise. But never this material is pushed further to be accepted as an absolute and irrevocable truth and much less as ideological imposition. Thus, I was amazed when I read that these students felt intimidated and decided to withdraw the course without even taking the chance to directly talk with Professor Robinson about the material. This students’ action demonstrates that there is problem distinguishing what anti-Semitist practices entail from those of as an opportunity to discuss a global conflict of great historical, cultural, and political importance.
Thus, on behalf of those students whose lives have changed as a result of being students of Professor Robinson, of those who have felt inspired by Professor Robinson’s tireless and compromising social involvement, and of those who have been guided by Professor Robinson to become future scholars is that I strongly encourage you to deliberate very carefully before embarking upon a course of action that may well violate Professor Robinson’s rights of academic freedom and integrity. Academic freedom is what has made not only Professor Robinson a worldwide well-known scholar, but, above all, the UC system, which over the decades has been known as a sanctuary for those scholars whose provocative and inquisitive minds have brought some much pride to the UC system.
Ph. D. Sociology Student
Joy Hylton, 7-time Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson:
To all of you involved in this case:
I am a graduate student of the Sociology Dept of UCSB, and though I have been on leave for the past few years due to health challenges, I still consider myself to be part of the academic community. I am absolutely appalled to discover the way this case has proceeded while so clearly based upon unfounded charges.
I believe my comments are relevant to Dr Robinson’s case, as I have served as a TA for him many times in the past, including three times for the course this case regards. I was also a Teaching Associate for this course myself under Dr Robinson’s mentorship. He also has served as a member of my committee. Quite obviously I have had ample opportunity to work with him and to reach conclusions regarding his ethics, abilities, and relations with students.
I took the time to carefully read the accusations of the students, and fail to understand how this case has not been immediately dismissed as unfounded. The nature of the course itself makes it obvious that the content of Dr. Robinson’s email is indeed relevant to the course curriculum; how could it not be? Sociology of Globalization inherently includes review and analysis of global and state social, economic, and political processes. How can a major policy and action regarding war and invasion not fall under the purview of this class? When I taught it, I certainly included major wars, (including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) in my curriculum. Like Dr. Robinson, I encouraged students to investigate, analyze, and draw their own conclusions.
This brings me to my second point: After having taken more than 6 classes from and TA’d more than 7 classes for Dr. Robinson, I can state uncategorically that I NEVER observed him being disrespectful, dismissive, intolerant, denigrating, or inattentive to any student’s expression of beliefs, opinions, questions, or conclusions. An arena of open discourse was always present. I personally noted that he was particularly tolerant even in situations where a student was obviously basing comments upon emotionally based beliefs rather than upon research or a spirit of inquiry. Indeed, I modeled much of my own perhaps less patient behavior upon his admirable demonstration of facilitating academic freedom and providing an environment where students knew they could indeed disagree with each other and/or with the professor. Dr. Robinson was also always very careful to provide abundant information and resources to the students while very rarely indicating his own political views on a particular topic or policy. His lectures, handouts and readings were carefully considered, relevant, and always flawlessly researched.
Please deliberate very carefully before embarking upon a course of action that may well violate Dr. Robinson’s rights of academic freedom. Consider his character, experience, academic excellence, reputation, and teaching abilities. Consider the content of the comments from the students. Clearly they do not understand the meaning of anti-Semitism, and to accuse someone of such is dangerous and ignorant. For those involved (in carrying forth with these charges) to not immediately understand that this is a matter of political difference of opinion on the parts of the students astounds me. There is no evidence of any discrimination, intolerance or unethical behavior presented. Indeed, it appears that the students involved did not even address their concerns to Dr. Robinson or to their classmates before withdrawing and filing official charges. For a governing body to act upon such charges and in such a fashion is shameful, and dangeous as well. As academics we must guard against restricting information and access.
Please accept this letter as a testimony in support of Dr. Robinson’s character and abilities. Please take the responsible course of action and dismiss these clearly unfounded charges. Please do not besmirch the reputation of UCSB as an institution where academic freedom is valued and respected.
Daniel Armanino, Teaching Assistant to Professor Robinson during the course at issue:
Dear Professor Scharlemann,
I am Dr. William Robinson’s teaching assistant this term and I am writing you in reference to a formal complaint filed against him this term by two students in our course, Sociology 130sg. Dr. Robinson shared with me what the complaint was in regards to and I believe you are the one I should contact in reference to this issue. If not, please forward this letter on to the appropriate person or persons on the academic senate.
The email in question could in no way be seen as anti-Semitic. I am absolutely perplexed that this email, intending purely to engage the students’ interest in a global conflict of great historical, cultural, and political importance, could be interpreted as such. Furthermore, I don’t understand how one can conflate the discussion of a State with that of a People. The email sent out was simply discussing a current global conflict. It in no
way criticized the Jewish people or their endeavors. Rather, it passed along an article that criticized the current conflict and the “State” of Israel for its recent actions. Again, I want to point out the very unique difference between a “State” and a “People.” This, in my opinion, is key to the inappropriateness of the complaint.
Dr. Robinson is one of the most intelligent, articulate, fair-minded professors that I have ever had the privilege to know. I have taken several graduate-level courses from him as well as having assisted him in teaching and have always found him to be nothing but excellent in his professional manner and teaching abilities. After completing my master’s at the University of Chicago, one of the leading reasons that led me to apply at UCSB was Dr. Robinson and his work on globalization. I want to state here unequivocally, that Dr. Robinson consistently asks his students for differences of opinion and discussion topics in a way that is inviting and friendly. He is always open to debate and believes that education should be about teaching people to think for themselves.
I am currently reminded of the allegations leveled at Professors Richard Falk and Lisa Hajjar. Perhaps you have heard that they too have been charged with anti-Semitism after a recent visit to UCLA where they spoke on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their comments were in discussion of two “States” in conflict, yet their words were conflated with charging a “People” with actions versus a “State.” Both professors have brought suits of libel and I can only hope they are successful as neither is an anti-Semite in any way, just as Professor Robinson is not.
The sociology of globalization is fraught with global conflicts. My doctoral work is on globalization as well was my master’s work at Chicago. If we cannot discuss these conflicts in an academic setting, where can we discuss them? Indeed, if you find that these charges are adequate to indict Dr. Robinson in anyway, than I suggest the academic senate discuss the dissolution of the entire social sciences at the University of Californian, Santa Barbara. I’m not intending to be rude in this statement, only to impress upon you how important it is that global discussions be allowed and not censured when a “State” is discussed in a negative light.
Finally, I feel it is important to let you know that I took this opportunity on all by myself to talk with you. I was not asked to do so. I have further discussed this issue with a number of students, including one of Dr. Robinson’s other teaching assistants, and we are prepared, collectively, to bring a great deal of support to Dr. Robinson’s case, should it go any further. We will do this through letters, emails, and phone calls all discussing Dr. Robinson’s excellence as a Professor and teacher, one who has never imposed his views on students. Dr. Robinson is a tremendous asset to the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Thank you for your time.
Department of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara
Former student in the course at issue:
To whom it may concern:
Professor Robinson showed great concern and compassion for his students and the world throughout the course. I enjoyed his teaching style as he was able to illuminate topics and ideas that are not regularly accessible to me. To present these stories and events in a realistic and unbiased manner Professor Robinson provided class discussions, videos, reading assignments, and e-mails directing our attention to current topics in the news relevant to our class. As a professional, Professor Robinson would preface all of the controversial and offensive teaching material with a warning of the explicit nature of the content. Also, any and every time in class students were given the opportunity to ask questions and offer their opinions when appropriate. Whenever Professor Robinson expressed opinions he explained to the class that the opinions were his own and he would present any counter views or opinions to that of his own. I appreciate Professor Robinson for his knowledge and teaching style that continues to help me examine many of the issues facing the globe from a newfound perspective.
Collective of Alumni from the Latin American and Iberian Studies Masters Program:
To Whom It May Concern,
We are writing on behalf of a small collective of UCSB alumni who received Masters Degrees in the Latin American and Iberian Studies program. We are collectively appalled at the accusations leveled against Professor Robinson and ashamed of the UCSB administration’s lack of support for Professor Robinson. The LAIS program is a small program with dedicated professors and graduate students alike. Throughout our two year program, Professor Robinson was a tireless supporter of the program while other members of the UCSB faculty questioned the programs efficacy and integrity. Without his support of the program, LAIS might not exist today.
Without a doubt he is a first rate professor with an unparalleled intellect and an insatiable curiosity for the world at large and most importantly a genuine and profound love for teaching. He is one of a few professors less concerned with publishing and more with teaching and inspiring his students, and yet at the same time has contributed so much to this university through the hundreds of articles and books he has published throughout the world. He truly tears down the concept of the “ivory tower” by applying his theories to hands on activism and organizing. And despite his extremely busy schedule as a professor, global activist and author, he was always accessible and approachable. He communicated fluently and professionally with us throughout our two years at UCSB.
His classroom is free of censorship and is open for all opinions to be explored and expressed. His classes promote rigorous debate and thoughtful reflection, often with themes and topics of sensitive subjects. But in no way did he ever push, coerce, intimidate or pressure others to tow his line.
The accusations leveled against him are absurd and disturbing. Sociology, the study of everything, is open to debate. He often sent articles, never making us feel obligated to read them as it was always optional. He sent them as he felt they would stimulate the thought process, promote dialogue and diversify our reading assignments. It is apparent the two students who have complained are unaware as to what “The Sociology of Globalization” signifies and had they not dropped the course after two weeks they probably would have realized the relevance of the article that Professor Robinson had sent out.
When our institutions of higher learning begin to censor professors they are destroying the very fabric in which makes the UC system a world renowned academic institution. Censoring professors and students alike from questioning and critiquing the world in which we live negates the purpose of an education and renders the degrees in which it awards worth nothing more than positivist thought control and robs the student body of all sense of agency and accomplishment.
UCSB’s decision to take action against Professor Robinson causes us to question the integrity of our Master’s Degrees and call into question the dignity of UCSB’s mission statement. What were once feelings of pride and accomplishment for having received M.A. degrees from UCSB are now feelings of shame and disappointment as our diplomas come from a university that is willing to violate the basic principles of academic freedom and set a precedent for authoritarian censorship.
LAIS Graduates 2008:
Amy Milner Steets
Amy Rosner, UCSB Alumna and Former Student of Professor Robinson:
To Whom It May Concern,
I am outraged by the accusations against Professor Robinson and disgusted by the audacity of such a well-respected university to take these claims seriously. It is unbelievable that UCSB would take part in something that is such a blatant violation of academic freedom and that compromises their reputation as a prestigious university. This is not only infuriating as someone who has worked very closely with Professor Robinson throughout my graduate school career at UCSB, but also as a Jewish woman who knows that a critique of Israel’s policies has nothing to do with anti-Semitism whatsoever. There is nothing more hypocritical than the Zionist lobby’s attempt to repress any critique of Israel’s policies. Growing up Jewish, we learn to never forget, but now must we forget what is happening to Palestinians because the historic parallels make us uncomfortable? Would it be fair to eliminate holocaust studies from history because Germans might get offended? This is no different, and its appalling that Jews would so paradoxically obsess over telling the truth and preserving history, when they cannot face the truth about Israel, or at least think critically about it. Critiquing government is nothing new; we do it everyday in contemporary academia. So why is it that critiquing Israel stirs such emotion? Should we eliminate critiquing US involvement in Latin America? Should we stop learning about slavery because it makes white people uncomfortable? This is dangerous territory because of how it could set a precedent for violation of academic freedom and authoritarian censorship. Sadly, the main issue for most Jews is a refusal to recognize the difference between Israel’s policies and their own Jewish identity. I am proud to be Jewish but that does not mean I am not critical of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians. If anything, part of being Jewish is analyzing the world you live in by engaging in intellectual critique. Denouncing Israel’s policies is not to be equated with anti-Semitism on any level nor is it to be likened to self-deprecation. To be clear, a critique of the state of Israel and its policies does NOT equal anti-Semitism. To suppress the truth about Israel and Palestine creates anti-Semitism rather than opposes it because of what is says about the Jewish community’s refusal to acknowledge Palestinians as human beings. I am not only embarrassed for the Jewish community, but also ashamed to have a Master’s degree from a university that would persecute a Professor on such ridiculous accusations.
Bill Robinson is a rare gift to academia. He is not only a brilliant mind contributing to our understanding of globalization and social change, but also a mentor and teacher that pushes us as students to reach our full potential as researchers, writers, teachers, and activists. His passion for both his research and teaching is what sets him apart from many other professors. As the chair of my thesis committee, Bill never ceased to amaze me on how many things he could balance at once. Even though he was constantly travelling throughout the world, writing books, teaching classes, and advising at least 10 other students, he was always dedicated to my project and incredibly enthusiastic about it. The experience of a grad student is one of uncertainty; in many ways, we are not students, nor are we professors. This undefined territory leaves many students with a sense of insecurity, whereas they sometimes question their existence and future in academia. Sometimes all it takes is that one professor that believes in you to push you forward and make you realize that what you are contributing is relevant and unique. Bill Robinson was that professor for me, and I would imagine for many other students as well.
There is no limit to his knowledge, passion, or dedication. He inspires me to move forward and believe in myself not only as an intellectual contributing to the academic world, but also as an activist that has a responsibility to utilize that role and create change in my own community. I am blessed to have had the chance to work with someone like Bill Robinson. UCSB should value his contributions in the same way by acknowledging the role he has played in bringing prestige and honor to the university, and by dropping these charges that not only threaten academic freedom but also go against everything this university stands for.
An anonymous, former student from the course at issue:
To Whom It May Concern:
I write this letter with the sincerest intentions to inform the reader as to the character of Dr. Robinson. I had the absolute pleasure of taking his Social Globalization class last quarter (130 SG Winter 2009). This was the most informative, well-rounded class I have taken thus far at UCSB. Being a student of Dr. Robinson is something I will not soon forget. His style far exceeds pedagogical in nature due to his immense amount of knowledge, experience and above all, passion. This passion for his work shines through in every sentence of his speech. Sitting in class as a student is one of the most refreshing experiences I have had to date. Ideas, concepts and occurrences are always portrayed in the most accurate and unbiased of ways. This is absolutely pertinent in creating an ideal environment for free thought and academic expression to take place. Dr. Robinson’s teaching style highly promotes an environment where one can feel comfortable asking questions and getting straightforward unbiased answers.
I feel that Dr. Robinson is an asset to UCSB as well as academia as a whole. I hold Dr. Robinson in the highest of regards and hope to be a student in his class this upcoming quarter.
A second anonymous, former student (a first year, transfer student) from the course at issue:
The experience during my first year at UCSB has been particularly rewarding by having Professor Will Robinson as a lead academic Instructor for Sociology 130. Professor Robinson is one of the best instructors at UCSB and is an integral part of the Sociology and Global Studies departments. Professor Robinson has been highly professional and at no time has he made directly or indirectly any notions of anti-Semitism. He has been extremely polite and respectful to all students regardless of race, gender, or creed. I would like to defend Professor Robinson in regards to any allegations that have resulted from insinuations and imprecise judgments. Professor Robinson is an advocate for the civil rights of all people and demonstrates this by the consciousness he promotes in the classroom. He is an exceptional role model for scholars nationally and sincerely cares and supports the greater good of humanity. On behalf of Professor Robinson, I declare my support for him against these unfounded allegations.
Another anonymous, former student from one of Prof. Robinson’s courses on Globalization:
To whom it may concern,
I am an undergraduate student at UCSB and I am appalled by the false accusations that plague Professor William I. Robinson. It is alarming that Academic Freedom is under assault with the accusation of Professor Robinson at an institution that should encourage independent thinking and tolerance for varying points of view. The accusation of anti-Semitism when speaking about Israel’s policies is absurd. It is an outright assault on Academic Freedom. Is it not a right to question policies and actions that impact our society in this interconnected world? I have taken a course with Professor Robinson and his values are exceedingly humanitarian. When he speaks about20globalization he is not hesitant to display the reality of profit over people. If there was a motto to abide to in his classroom it would be justice for all human beings irrespective of race, age, class, gender and sexual preference. If any policy or action harms a group of people, it should be analyzed and discussed. In fact, as scholars it is our duty not only our right to bring conscientiousness to controversial issues that impact our world and its inhabitants. It is fear, fear of the repercussion of our limited freedom that prevents justice to be vocalized and acted upon. If you do not act, you are soliciting and propagating the fear that consumes a nation to speak out against injustice and thus allowing inhumane conditions or policies to continue. This is not a matter of an unjust accusation of one individual, it can go very well beyond those limits and affect and diminish academics as we know it. If academia is not about providing enlightenment, if it is not about questioning our world, if it is not about innovative discovery…then may we transcend back into the dark ages when questioning authority invoked death and silence while monolithic thought and tyranny prevailed. It is in your20power to dismiss these charges, these charges that are a threat to freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and the rights we were given that are now being revoked.
An anonymous, current student in Prof. Robinson’s course on Latin America:
As a student of both the Sociology and Global Studies departments, this matter is of grave concern to me. Not only am I currently taking my second sociology class with Professor Robinson, he has guest lectured in my other global studies classes. He tells his students to question everything, even himself. If the students were concerned about the material that was distributed, they should have gone to the professor directly. I am sure that he would have been more than happy to explain the purpose of distributing the email. It also worries me that professors, such as Professor Robinson, will be censored and therefore prevent future students from getting the amazing academic experience that I had at UCSB. I hope that all of the charges will be dropped and that the great professors at UCSB will be able to continue imparting their knowledge onto their students.