[Marxism] Anti-Defamation League Pressured UCSB to move against William I. Robinson

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 29 06:57:26 MDT 2009


http://chronicle.com/daily/2009/04/17050n.htm

Today's News
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Head of Anti-Defamation League Urged Santa Barbara to Act Against Critic 
of Israel

By PETER SCHMIDT

The Anti-Defamation League's top official met with administrators and 
faculty members of the University of California at Santa Barbara last 
month and urged them to investigate a professor for academic misconduct 
for his harsh criticism of Israel in an e-mail message to students, a 
university spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

But the spokesman, Paul Desruisseaux, said a university administrator 
had told Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Jewish advocacy 
group, that an investigation was already under way in response to two 
students' complaints, and that any further discussion of the matter 
would be inappropriate.

The university, Mr. Desruisseaux said, "has not responded in any way to 
any pressure from the ADL or other groups" in its inquiry into 
misconduct allegations that the two students formally brought against 
William I. Robinson, a professor of sociology, in response to the e-mail 
message. He said the investigation was "working its way through standard 
procedures," with a panel of the Academic Senate looking into the matter 
to determine whether the allegations have enough weight to be considered 
by the senate's Privilege and Tenure Committee.

A national spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League, Myrna Shinbaum, 
confirmed Tuesday that the meeting with university officials had taken 
place. She declined, however, to provide additional comment, and said 
Mr. Foxman was out of the country. Officials of the organization's Santa 
Barbara regional office, which also was involved in the March 9 meeting, 
declined to take calls and referred inquiries to the group's national 
headquarters.

Dueling Statements

The controversy surrounding Mr. Robinson has attracted widespread 
attention at Santa Barbara and elsewhere, with some students on the 
campus forming a group in support of him and a long list of scholars 
signing onto letters urging that the investigation be dropped. On 
Tuesday, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, an organization 
comprising more than 100 faculty members at colleges around the state, 
issued a statement calling the misconduct charges "without merit" and 
"brought to silence criticism of Israeli policies and practices."

The uproar centers around an e-mail message that Mr. Robinson sent on 
January 19 to students in his "Sociology of Globalization" class. In it, 
he accused Israel of war crimes for its military actions in Gaza, and 
forwarded juxtaposed photographs of what he called "Nazi atrocities 
against the Jews and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians." He 
argued that "Gaza is Israel's Warsaw" and characterized Israel as a 
state "founded on the negation" of the Palestinian people.

On February 9, Cynthia Silverman, director of the Anti-Defamation 
League's Santa Barbara office, sent Mr. Robinson a letter saying her 
organization had received complaints about his e-mail message. Her 
letter—copied to the campus's chancellor, Henry T. Yang, and the 
university system's president, Mark G. Yudof—called the professor's 
comparison of Israelis and Nazis "offensive" and the views he presented 
in his e-mail message "intimidating to students."

The letter, arguing that the e-mail message appeared unrelated to Mr. 
Robinson's sociology course, cited several provisions of the 
university's faculty code of conduct that, it said, he had probably 
violated by using his university e-mail account to distribute a message 
that was not course-related.

'His Damage Is Irreversible'

In the ensuing weeks, two students separately filed formal letters of 
complaint about the e-mail message with university officials. Both of 
those letters complained that Mr. Robinson had violated the same 
provisions in the code of conduct that had been cited by the regional 
office of the ADL, and both accused Mr. Robinson of anti-Semitism using 
a definition taken from a U.S. State Department document.

One of the students wrote, "This professor should be stopped immediately 
from continuing to disseminate this information and be punished because 
his damage is irreversible."

The other student said she had been nauseated about a professor sending 
such an e-mail message and felt compelled to drop the class in response 
to it.

The campus spokesman, Mr. Desruisseaux (who is a former editor at The 
Chronicle), said the March 9 meeting with Mr. Foxman and local ADL 
officials was organized by Leonard Wallock, associate director of the 
campus's Walter Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and 
Public Life. Among those in attendance were Michael D. Young, vice 
chancellor for student affairs; David B. Marshall, executive dean of the 
College of Letters and Science; and several faculty members.

"To the participants from our campus," Mr. Desruisseaux said, "the 
purpose and agenda of the meeting had nothing to do with the Robinson 
inquiry. It was planned as an informal discussion of issues of mutual 
concern to the campus, its students, and ADL."

When Mr. Foxman pulled out the regional ADL office's letter of complaint 
about Mr. Robinson and asked if the university had done anything in 
response, "about half the people in the room did not know what he was 
talking about," Mr. Desruisseaux said. Mr. Marshall then told the ADL 
official that the inquiry was under way, and ended discussion of the 
subject.

A student group that is supporting Mr. Robinson and working closely with 
him, the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom, issued a statement 
arguing that Mr. Foxman had held the meeting solely to pressure the 
university to investigate the complaints against the professor. Neither 
Mr. Robinson nor the committee was able on Tuesday to produce any 
faculty members who had attended the meeting and who could support their 
account, however. Mr. Robinson did not comment on Tuesday.

The Anti-Defamation League's calls for Santa Barbara to investigate Mr. 
Robinson is not its only current effort to challenge campus 
relationships with critics of Israel. The group also is protesting 
decisions by Michigan State University and the University of North 
Carolina at Chapel Hill to have Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a vocal critic 
of Israel, speak at their commencements this year.




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