[Marxism] Anti-Defamation League Pressured UCSB to move against William I. Robinson
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Wed Apr 29 06:57:26 MDT 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Head of Anti-Defamation League Urged Santa Barbara to Act Against Critic
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
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
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
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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