Responses to the Students’ Charges by Professor Geoff Raymond
1. Professor Robinson’s e-mail did not constitute anti-Semitism even by the definition raised in the complaining letters. In each letter, the basis for a charge of anti-Semitism (overbroad as it was) depended on specific persons in government being compared to Nazis. In the e-mail in question, Professor Robinson did not “demonize Israel, vilify leaders, compare leaders with Nazi leaders, or use Nazi symbols to caricature leaders.” Rather, his e-mail focused specifically on Israeli policies and practices in Gaza and their consequences for Palestinians. Thus, even according to the standards established by the anti-defamation league, his e-mail did not constitute an act of anti-Semitism.
2. The alleged violations are patently frivolous.
2.1 The letter writer claims Professor Robinson violated “the right to present controversial material relevant to the course of instruction”; insofar as this is a “right” that *professors* have (not students) it can only be violated if others attempt to *suppress* a professor’s introduction of controversial material. Obviously, Professor Robinson has not done that to himself or any student. Clearly, however, the charges against him patently entail an effort to infringe this right, even if only through a kind of procedural punishment (where he is tied up for months defending himself against frivolous charges).
2.2. Professor Robinson did not engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with the students; indeed he has had no personal contact with them whatever. Professor Robinson did not know them except through the filing of this complaint, and to this day he could not recognize either of them. The inclusion of this charge in the e-mail suggests that the students have done little more than copy the entire code of conduct in their letter. To the extent that the Charges Officer proceeds with such scattershot charging, this would entail a kind of prosecutorial misconduct and constitute a violation of basic principles of justice.
2.3 The e-mail sent by Professor Robinson was directly related to the topic of the course (on global conflict and struggles). However, even if it were not, a single e-mail cannot constitute a “significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course.” Given the number of hours the course met each week and the amount of reading material assigned (100-200 pages per week) the e-mail constituted less than 1/10 of 1% of even 1 week of the course – much less the course itself as a whole – a portion that falls far below any reasonable measure or threshold of “significant.”
2.4. There was no discrimination or harassment; Professor Robinson sent the e-mail to the entire class, and therefore did not single out any one person, or category of persons, for special treatment. Moreover, insofar as Professor Robinson’s e-mail focused on the policies and practices of the state of Israel, it does not constitute anti-Semitism according to the Anti-Defamation League’s own very broad definition.
2.5 This e-mail was sent to a class listserv. It was not discussed in class at all, and therefore no intimidation in the classroom can have taken place. Moreover, the students were under no obligation to read the e-mail and could have very easily deleted it if they found the very obvious subject heading contrary to their own views. Finally, the students are free to drop the class, but they cannot freely choose to do so, and then claim that their decision reflected intimidation on the part of Professor Robinson, especially since they did not even contact him before doing so.
2.6. The forwarding of e-mail does not entail scholarship of any kind; the author of the material presented in the e-mail was clearly identified in the e-mail itself; Professor Robinson did not pass off these ideas as his own.
2.7 The sending of a single e-mail to a class for which it is appropriate does not “constitute a use of University resources on a *significant scale* for personal, commercial, political or religious purposes.” Indeed, the sending of a single e-mail does not constitute a significant use of University resources at all.
2.8 At no point in the e-mail did Professor Robinson claim that the views expressed in it represented the views of the University of California. That is plain on the face of the e-mail itself.
Given the total lack of any substance to each of these complaints they are, on their face, frivolous. They amount to an effort by students (and the ADL) to suppress the professional rights of faculty (as described in the handbook) to “present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction.” The Charges Officer’s refusal to reject these claims as frivolous, or form an advisory panel to do so, constitutes a further breach of that right. Moreover, by formally ratifying patently frivolous complaints through the formation of an ad hoc committee, the Charges Officer has opened up the University to a lawsuit by the faculty member in question. Finally, by not following the specific policies described in the “Formal Complaint Procedures” section of the Faculty Code of Conduct, the Charges Officer has failed to discharge his duties in a lawful manner. To wit: he has failed to inform the faculty member of the charge – or charges – against him.