by Tammi Benjamin
Santa Cruz, CA, Dec. 18, 2014 – Twenty-two groups wrote to nine University of California (UC) Chancellors today, demanding they publicly state their commitment to upholding UC policies which prohibit academic student employees (ASEs) from using their instructional positions to promote a boycott of Israel.
The UC Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits ASEs from promoting political propaganda or advocacy in the classroom. UAW 2865, the union representing 13,000 graduate instructors on nine University of California (UC) campuses, voted last week to join the international campaign for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) against Israel.
“We represent 22 organizations with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters nationwide, who are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of Jewish students at colleges and universities across the country in light of the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment and the rapid growth of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on many campuses,” wrote the groups. “While we support the right of every member of UAW 2865 to exercise his or her freedom of speech outside of the instructional setting, we are greatly concerned that these union members, who are responsible for instructing hundreds of thousands of undergraduate students, will bring their unscholarly, politically motivated and antisemitic propaganda and advocacy into UC classrooms, where it certainly does not belong.”
The BDS movement has become increasingly explicit in expressing its ultimate goal of eliminating Israel. This goal was echoed by members of the UAW 2865 BDS Caucus panel at UC Berkeley last month, when they stated that the purpose of BDS is “isolating Zionism” and “bringing down Israel.” In embracing a movement that calls for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state, UAW 2865 members are trafficking in open antisemitism.
Furthermore, the BDS movement calls for a campaign of anti-normalization whose goal is to delegitimize and silence anyone who accepts the legitimacy of Israel. On numerous college campuses, including at the University of California, aggressive anti-normalization campaigns have targeted Jewish and pro-Israel students for harassment, intimidation, bullying and physical assault.
“Given the antisemitic and discriminatory nature of the BDS movement, graduate student instructors who choose to use their classroom as a platform for advancing the goals of the BDS movement cannot help but create a hostile and threatening environment for many Jewish and pro-Israel students. We therefore call on each of you to issue a public statement affirming your commitment to strictly enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content and to ensuring that Jewish and pro-Israel students are provided with a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment.”
In August, after UAW 2865 announced its intent to call for a BDS vote, AMCHA coordinated a letter from twelve groups to Janet Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents urging them to prohibit the graduate students from promoting BDS in the classroom.
UC Provost Aimee Dorr, on behalf of Napolitano, affirmed that the Regents Policy on Course Content and other UC policies prohibit ASEs from engaging in such actions. She also wrote to all Chancellors notifying them of the UC policies which prohibit ASEs from using their instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel.
Many of these same groups wrote last week to the UC Regents asking if these UC policies also apply to UC faculty.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization, based in California, dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America. AMCHA Initiative’s efforts are bolstered by a network of more than 5,000 members and supporters of the Jewish community — including university alumni, parents and grandparents, rabbis, religious school principals and synagogue members — who have joined together to speak in one voice to ensure the safety and well-being of Jewish students on college and university campuses across the country.