[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Nailing William Robinson: how they tried, how we're fighting back
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Apr 29 20:05:05 BST 2009
(William has been a Cape Town visitor to AIDC. His work especially on
Latin America is in the finest anti-imperialist, class-analytic
traditions. Please sign any petitions you can.)
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Marxism] Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 11:15:24 -0700
From: Cesar "El Che" Rodriguez <elche48 at berkeley.edu>
Reply-To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
To: pbond at mail.ngo.za
I wanted to share this with everyone on this list serve. When I first
sent out a call to support Professor William I. Robinson and the
Committee to Defend Academic Freedom, a few folks responded openly
with concerns about indoctrination. This is an understandable concern
- that a professor may use his position of authority over a vulnerable
student population to present only one perspective on a complicated
issue - and certainly this has happened (I'm certain many a student
from working-class community of color can attest to being silenced,
even belittled, by 'educators'). However, Professor Robinson runs his
classroom in a way that is very reflexive and open for dialogue, as he
not only fields any and every question with patience and diligent
responses, but also asks his students to criticize everything (even
the material he presents them).
Thus, the concern in regards to indoctrination is unfounded as it
regards Prof. Robinson. Rather, the real nexus of this problem is
forces outside of the university that are attempting to manipulate and
dictate what can be discussed in the classroom. Thus, this is an issue
of academic freedom, as outside forces are trying to police can can or
cannot be said in the university. This is a problem, because (even
though we may have a plethora of necessary criticisms of the
university, as well as the exclusionary structures and elitism
associated with our current system of higher learning) the university
should be a place for open dialogue where informed thinkers use
debate, backed by evidence, to produce the best knowledge available.
Instead, these outside forces are threatening to prevent the
university from becoming a space where people can debate openly and
Thus, we see here, in this press release, that Abraham Foxman, the
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, called a meeting with
extremely high level university administrators and a select number of
faculty members in order to pressure the university to investigate
Professor Robinson, who merely forwarded an email that compared how
the State of Israel was abusing Palestinians with how Nazi Germany
treated Jewish people to students in his globalization course.
Professor Robinson did not create this email, but merely forwarded it,
and nor is it the first nor the only instance where actions by the
State of Israel have been critically compared to state fascism.
Unfortunately, this is an incident where a criticism of a government,
coming from a university professor, has been manipulated by an outside
force into a charge of 'anti-semitism'. Mind you, a criticism of a
government should not be confused with racism! Rather, this is an
instance of outside forces attempting to police critical thought that
may take place at the university.
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB <CDAF.UCSB at gmail.com
> Date: April 28, 2009 8:57:23 AM PDT
> To: Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB <cdaf.ucsb at gmail.com>
> Subject: Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate
> Reply-To: CDAF-UCSB at googlegroups.com
> Abraham Foxman pushed UC-Santa Barbara to investigate professor
> Anti-Defamation League’s national director personally pressured UCSB
> representatives to act against faculty member
> Date: April 28, 2009
> Contact: Jeb Sprague, (805) 886-0429, jhsprague at umail.ucsb.edu.
> 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-
> 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 www.sb4af.wordpress.com.
> For media inquiries, call Jeb Sprague at (805) 886-0429, or write
> him at jhsprague at umail.ucsb.edu.
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