Santa Cruz, CA, April 16, 2015 – Twenty Jewish and education advocacy groups today called on University of California (UC) Riverside chancellor to cancel an antisemitic course being offered this quarter, which the groups say violates a UC policy prohibiting political indoctrination in the classroom. The course, “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid,” is being taught by a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
“The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered anti-Semitic according to the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism,” wrote the groups to UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox.
The groups claim the course syllabus strongly suggests that the instructor will be engaged in political indoctrination, in clear violation of University policy. “If this is the case,” say the groups, “the course should be eliminated.”
The groups also called for an investigation into the Office of Undergraduate Education and the R’Course Governing Board, which are jointly responsible for reviewing these types of student-led classes before they are approved.
The course is being taught by Tina Matar, an undergraduate student in UC Riverside’s English Department. Matar is a leader of UC Riverside’s SJP group, whose primary mission is to engage in activism to demonize and delegitimize Israel and work towards its elimination, especially through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. Matar was an author and proponent of the extremely contentious anti-Israel divestment resolution passed by the UC Riverside student senate last year.
The faculty sponsor for the course is English professor David Lloyd. Lloyd, who makes no secret of his animosity towards Israel, is the faculty sponsor for the UC Riverside SJP group, an international leader of the BDS movement and the founder of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Last year, UC administrators affirmed to these same groups that UC faculty are prohibited from bringing antisemitic propaganda into the classroom. UC Provost Aimee Dorr, on behalf of UC President Janet Napolitano, stated that the Regents Policy on Course Content and other UC policies prohibit student and faculty instructors from using the classroom for political propaganda or advocacy, including anti-Israel indoctrination and the promotion of a boycott of Israel. Dorr also sent a letter to all of the UC Chancellors affirming the University’s commitment to these policies.
The groups had asked Napolitano and Dorr for clarification of UC policies after UAW 2865 announced its intent to call for a vote in support of BDS and urge its graduate student members to pledge their personal participation in the academic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.
Below is the full text of the letter sent to UC Riverside Chancellor Wilcox today with more details about the course curriculum.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization, based in California, dedicated to monitoring, investigating 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.
April 16, 2015
Dear Chancellor Wilcox,
It has come to our attention that a course being taught at your university this quarter may well be in violation of the Regents Policy on Course Content, which prohibits the use of any UC classroom for the purpose of political indoctrination.
According to the UCR website, a one-credit course entitled “Palestinian Voices” is being taught as an “R’Course” by an undergraduate student in the English Department, Tina Matar. The UCR web page announcing the course sports a benign graphic of Israeli and Palestinian flags and includes this short description:
“This course is about the history of Palestine viewed through contemporary literature and media from before the creation of Israel to today. We will be discussing the side of the conflict that you don’t hear on mainstream media. The stories of the Palestinian people and their struggles don’t get mentioned, and this class is made to discuss that. It will allow students to find ways to take part and listen to personal testimonials from people that have lived/ currently live through it.”
While the website description of “Palestinian Voices” already makes clear that the course will focus on only one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the full extent of the course’s anti-Israel bias, and its clear intent to politically indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action against it, are only made apparent in the course’s downloadable syllabus.
The following aspects of the syllabus are noteworthy and of serious concern:
- According to the syllabus, the title of the course is not“Palestinian Voices,” but rather “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid”. Not only does the course’s actual title reveal the student instructor’s unambiguous anti-Israel bias, it includes a patently false canard about Israel frequently used to delegitimize the Jewish state, language which meets the U.S. State Department’s definitionof antisemitism. Perhaps even more troubling, however, is the fact that there was a clear attempt to obfuscate the extreme anti-Israel bias of the course by re-titling it for the R’Course web page and including a graphic of Israeli and Palestinian flags that falsely suggests a modicum of even-handedness about the conflict which is sorely lacking from the syllabus and, presumably, from the course itself.
- In the syllabus, Ms. Matar identifies herself as a member of the UCR chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and implies that her work with that group forms the basis for the development of the course. Indeed, Matar is a leader of UCR’s SJP group, whose primary mission is to engage in activism to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and work towards its elimination, especially through anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. Matar herself was an author and proponent of the extremely contentious anti-Israel divestment resolution passed by the UCR student senate last April.
- The faculty sponsor for the course is English Professor David Lloyd, whom Matar also identifies as the faculty sponsor for the UCR SJP group and writes that in that capacity Lloyd “has been working very closely with us for the last two years and has been in constant communication with not only me, but the other students as well. We have had a number of face-to-face meetings throughout the year about forming a class like this”. Prof. Lloyd, who makes no secret of his animosity towards the Jewish state, is also an international leader of the BDS movement and a founderof the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
- The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered antisemitic according to the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism.
- According to the syllabus, 20% of each student’s grade for the course is based on “Event Attendance.” Although the number and nature of these events are not specified — which itself is worrisome given how much weight is given to event attendance — we are concerned that students may be required to attend SJP-hosted events intended to promote anti-Israel activism such as BDS.
As you are aware, at the beginning of this academic year Provost Aimee Dorr sent a letter to you and the other UC Chancellors reviewing the University’s academic policies which prohibit instructors from using the classroom for promoting political propaganda, with special emphasis on the Regents Policy on Course Content, which states:
“Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “indoctrination” as “teach[ing] (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs”. Ms. Matar’s course syllabus strongly suggests that she will be engaged in the political indoctrination of her students.
We therefore believe there are two serious problems regarding Matar’s course that should be addressed immediately:
- The course appears to be in violation of the University’s academic policies, particularly the Regents Policy on Course Content. If this is the case, the course should be eliminated.
- Given the obvious and egregious anti-Israel bias of the syllabus, this course proposal should never have been approved by the Office of Undergraduate Education and the R’Course Governing Board, which are jointly responsible for reviewingall R’Course proposals before they are taught. The fact that the proposal was approved by these offices and that the course is currently being taught without modification to the syllabus suggests that the curricular oversight of R’courses is deeply flawed and must be fixed, in order to ensure that students who take courses at UC Riverside are being educated and not indoctrinated.
We look forward to hearing the results of your investigation into this course and the curricular oversight process that approved it, as well as how you intend to enforce the University’s academic policies prohibiting indoctrination, particularly the Regents Policy on Course Content, with regard to this course and in the future.
Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter.
Accuracy in Academia
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
California Association of Scholars
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: UC President Janet Napolitano
UC Provost Aimee Dorr
UC Board of Regents
UC Riverside Provost
UC Riverside Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Steven Brint
UC Riverside Coordinator of Educational Initiatives Beth Claassen Thrush
Contact: Nicole Rosen