UCLA Profs Ask UC President to Condemn “Offensive” Israel Statement from Asian American Studies Dept.

In a July 20 letter, the Ad hoc Faculty Committee for Academic Integrity at UCLA argued that it is “ethically wrong” for a department to issue such a statement that is “almost certainly a violation of university policy.”
July 20, 2021
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A group of UCLA professors are calling on University of California President Michael Drake to condemn a May statement from UCLA’s Asian American Studies Department about the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas.

The statement from the Asian American Studies Department said they “oppose settler-colonialism in all its forms, from Tovaangar to Palestine. We condemn the exploitation, theft, and colonization of land and labor and we strive for freedom and justice for all peoples.” It went on to “condemn the exchange of military tactics and financial support between the United States and Israel, noting how U.S. counterinsurgency techniques and military equipment used during the Vietnam War were then extrapolated to the Occupied Territories; how the Israeli military’s policing of the apartheid wall dividing Jerusalem and isolating the West Bank has influenced the U.S.’s own brutal border security policies along the U.S.-Mexico border; and how Israel has too often upheld its support of Asian and Asian American individuals as proof of multicultural democracy, over and against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine via a process of ‘yellow-washing.’”

The department also called for Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip as well as the “end to the military occupation of the West Bank and the renewed assault against Palestinians who have joined the protest. We implore the Biden administration to halt all funding to Israel until it complies with international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, and stops its crimes against humanity and human rights violations.”

The statement eventually concluded: “We remain committed to teaching about Palestine in our classes. We stand in support of our students, who even as they mourn and grieve, remain committed to activism and advocacy in all forms. In sum, we lend our voices to uplifting the struggle of the Palestinian people as part of our ethical, scholarly, and pedagogical commitment to knowledge relevant for justice and freedom for all people and geographies of the world.”

In a July 20 letter to Drake, the Ad hoc Faculty Committee for Academic Integrity at UCLA argued that it is “ethically wrong” for a department to issue such a statement that is “almost certainly a violation of university policy.” The committee pointed to how university policy forbids the use of “University Assets or their affiliation with the University in any manner that suggests or implies University support, endorsement or advancement of, or opposition to, any issue, activity or program, whether political, religious, economic or otherwise.”

Regardless, “it does harm to students and to the environment of mutual respect, diversity and inclusion that should characterize all academic programs. For students, an academic department represents the University as an institution. Therefore, proclamations of official departmental political positions create an unwelcoming, even toxic, atmosphere for students who disagree with them.” Jewish students who are pro-Israel and taking Asian American Studies classes “can now expect, quite reasonably, that their academic careers will suffer because of their beliefs or identity. The same holds true for students at affiliated departments who would quickly discover the intimidating nature of the statement issued by the Asian-American Studies Department.”

The committee went on to accuse the department’s statement of promulgating “extreme, indeed fabricated, claims that criminalize the very creation of Israel, and, by implication, indict all its citizens and supporters, including us. Prospective UCLA students and faculty who see themselves condemned, by the university itself, as complicit in ‘seventy-three years of settler colonialism, racial apartheid, and occupation’ will be unlikely to choose UCLA.”

The letter concluded with a call for Drake to “condemn the content of the ‘Statement’ and the improper way it was posted, and state unequivocally that it does not reflect an official viewpoint of the University of California; and … instruct the UC Office of the General Counsel to deal with this case in the appropriate manner.”

One of the signatories of the letter to Drake was Judea Pearl, Chancellor Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation President. Pearl tweeted, “When a student union is hijacked by [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] cronies, students suffer but the university continues to function. When an academic department is hijacked, the university is dismembered, marking the end of higher education. A group of us decided enough is enough.”

A spokesperson from Drake’s office said in a statement to the Journal, “University of California President Michael V. Drake, M.D., appreciates the concerns raised by the authors of the letter. The University will continue to ensure that its campuses are welcoming, inclusive spaces for all students as UC continues its rich tradition of free speech and diversity of thought.”

UCLA’s Asian American Studies Department did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.


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