The Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle
East P.O. Box 48
Grantham, PA 17027
We are the members of the board of Scholarsfor Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a grass-roots community of more than 50,000 academics on 4,000 campuses all over the world, who have united to promote honest fact based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We have noted with concern the degradation of civil discourse on campus and the increasing harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel and Jewish students and faculty in Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
In response to that concern, the SPME Legal Taskforce recently produced a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Speech.
Recent events at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) are a case in point. On February 29, 2012, after having tabled it in the two prior years, the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD, the student government) defeated a resolution calling on the University system to divest from US companies, specifically General Electric and Northrop Grumman. UCSD’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had proposed the resolution, alleging that those companies supply components of Apache Helicopters that are sold to Israel and used by Israel’s defense forcesagainst the Palestinian “population.”After seven hours of contentious public statements and debate, the ASUCSD voted against the resolution.
One of the speakers who opposed the resolution was UCSD University Professor Shlomo Dubnov of the Music department, who heads the campus chapter of SPME. He reported to us that pro-divestment students at the meeting had used abusive language toward anti-divestment students and had called him a racist.
On March 2, leaders of five student organizations (SAAC, MEChA, KP, BSU, MSA, SJP) who had led the pro-divestment initiative sent a letter to faculty, administrators, and members of the UCSD Campus Climate Council “to address the hostile campus climate being created for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities.” The letter alleged that pro-Israel speakers at the meeting who referred to themselves as ‘UCSD staff’ or ‘UCSD professor’ used their positions as University employees to verbally attack students and to even “erase the existence of many individuals in the room.”
Their letter also states: “Students report that at this meeting one particular Music Department faculty member verbally harassed a student outside of the 4th floor Forum,” presumably referring to Professor Dubnov, who was the only member of the Music Department at the meeting. He asserts that he never engaged in any direct conversation with pro-divestment students in that setting and that numerous faculty, staff and UCSD students can verify that. Professor Dubnov shared the letter and his denial of the allegations with the head of the UCSD Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, who is investigating these allegations and verifying the specifics with others who were in attendance.
The complaints were never officially filed but sent publicly in a series of emails to the UCSD departments of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies and to the San Diego Faculty Association (SDFA). Without any fact-finding, the SDFA immediately endorsed the allegations and issued a public statement accusing pro-Israel faculty, and Professor Dubnov specifically, of verbally attacking “students of color.”
SPME believes that the SDFA has violated the UCSD code of conduct and compromised its integrity by publishing unproven allegations. We urge UCSD to determine which individuals present at the February 29 meeting were actually using abusive language, and to implement whatever procedures the UCSD codes specify.
The Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
For more information please contact:
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Acting Executive Director
SPME Board of Directors
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