*Berkeley suspends Palestine class midway through semester*
Published time: 16 Sep, 2016 00:17

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[image: © Noah Berger]
© Noah Berger / Reuters
A University of California, Berkeley class, ‘Palestine: A Settler-Colonial
Analysis’, was suspended after Chancellor Nicholas Dirks determined that
the student teaching the course had not followed the appropriate procedures
for its approval.

The one-credit student-taught class has become the center of a bitter
debate. The class was meant to teach the history of Palestine “*from the
1880s to the present, through the lens of settler colonialism,*” its
syllabus once read, according
the San Francisco Chronicle. The syllabus has since been removed.

The class was a part of Berkeley’s DeCal program, or Democratic Education
at Cal. The premise is not revolutionary; students teach one-credit classes
to other students on a pass/fail basis.

Some of these classes offer challenging topics like professional speaking,
cryptocurrency and faith-based debates. Other classes are more fun, like
ones about Korean drumming, introduction to baking and meditation classes.

However, the class on Palestine’s history was removed after Chancellor
Dirks received a letter
<http://www.amchainitiative.org/letter-to-uc-berkeley-chancellor-dirks> from
43 Jewish and civil rights groups that claimed the class was acting as
political indoctrination that encouraged students “*to hate the Jewish
state and take action to eliminate it.*”

The letter published on Tuesday accused both the student, Paul Hadweh, and
the faculty advisor, Hatem Bazian, of having “*extreme anti-Zionist
political orientation.*” Hadweh is a member of the school’s Students for
Justice in Palestine, and Bazian is the chairman of American Muslims for
Palestine (AMP).

The letter points out that the class is the only politically motivated
DeCal class and claimed that much of the assigned course reading is from
authors who have either called for an academic boycott of Israel, called
for the dismantling of Israel, or both.

However, the letter did not call for a suspension of the class. Rather, it
wanted a stricter policy that would prevent future classes from not meeting
requirements from the Regents Policy on Course Content.

The Board of Regents stance
<http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/governance/policies/2301.html> on
student led courses does ban “*misuse of the classroom by, for example,
allowing it to be used for political indoctrination.*” The problem is that
political indoctrination is given no definition, leaving it open ended for
potentially any politically charged course to potentially be against its

As a result, Dirks’ office responded by telling the groups that the class “*did
not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met
Berkeley’s academic standards,*” according to the Chronicle.

Dirks spokesman claimed that Hadweh “*did not comply with policies and
procedures that govern the normal academic review.*” He explained that
Hadweh’s syllabus had not been seen or approved by the dean of the College
of Letters and Sciences.

Hadweh gave a statement
<https://academeblog.org/2016/09/15/berkeley-bans-a-palestine-class/> to
Academe Blog, saying:

“*I complied with all policies and procedures required for creating the
course. The course was vetted and fully supported by the faculty advisor,
the department chair, and the Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses of
Instruction (COCI).*

*The university suspended the course without consulting me, the faculty
sponsor, the chair of the department, or the Academic Senate’s COCI, which
is responsible for approving all UC Berkeley Courses. The university did
not contact us to discuss concerns prior to suspending our course.*”

The Dean of Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science, Carla Hesse, first
contacted Hadweh to inform him that the course had been suspended on
September 14, according to Academe Blog.

Statements from the school placed the blame for the suspension squarely on
Hadweh’s shoulders.

Dan Mogulof, executive director for communications and public affairs at
Berkeley, told
“*Although the dean is not required to approve the course, students must
still send her a copy of the proposal,*” and said that Hesse was surprised
to learn about the class, as she had never received a syllabus.

However, when Academe Blog realized that the website for the DeCal
procedure does not require the Dean of Letters & Science to receive a copy
of the syllabus, Mogulof changed his story.

He wrote, “*The existing policy of the Academic Senate’s Committee on
Courses and Instruction explicitly states that the relevant department
chair or the Dean must approve new courses, and that ‘a copy of the
approved proposal form” must also be provided to the Dean. Neither of these
steps were completed in this instance.*”

On Tuesday, Hadweh was told by Hesse that he had to do three things to
potentially have the class restored, Academe Blog reported. First he was to
prove that the class was “*fair and balanced.*” Second, he was banned
from “*seeking
to politically mobilize students*” through the course, and third, he was to
defend why the class about Palestine would be considered Ethnic Studies and
not Near East Studies or Global Studies.

Meanwhile, the following classes remain available
<http://www.decal.org/courses/>: ‘Marxism and Its Discontents, Addressing
Inequality through Urban Debate’ and ‘Rethinking The Drug War: Historical
Context, Framing, and Education’.

Suspension of controversial Palestine class at UC Berkeley sparks debate

Critics argued that the course, which studied Palestine ‘through the lens
of settler colonialism’, was anti-Israel and antisemitic

[image: UC Berkeley said the school was ‘very concerned’ about a course
that ‘espouses a single political viewpoint’.]
Berkeley said the school was ‘very concerned’ about a course that ‘espouses
a single political viewpoint’. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sam Levin <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/sam-levin>

Thursday 15 September 2016 19.17 EDT

The University of California
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/california>, Berkeley has suspended a
course dedicated to studying Palestine “through the lens of settler
colonialism”, sparking international debate about academic freedom.

The course at UC Berkeley – entitled Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis
– faced intense backlash this week from Jewish organizations, which argued
<http://www.amchainitiative.org/letter-to-uc-berkeley-chancellor-dirks> that
the class was “anti-Israel and antisemitic” and “intended to indoctrinate
students to hate the Jewish state”.

After a stream of negative news stories
 and editorials
the northern California school, considered the top public university in the
US, announced that it was suspending the class because it “did not receive
a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s
academic standards”.

Israel <https://www.theguardian.com/world/israel> advocates and
antisemitism watchdog groups applauded the decision and called for an
overview of the course review process. But pro-Palestine organizations,
along with some faculty members at UC Berkeley, have criticized the
suspension, arguing that administrators were silencing viewpoints and
prioritizing public relations over academic discourse.

The dispute comes at a time of increasing tensions between pro-Israel and
pro-Palestine university activists, with Jewish donors and organizations
launching coordinated campaigns
counter a growing Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) movement across
the US.

The “colonialism” course <http://www.decal.org/courses/4237>, which already
had its first class this fall, was part of an acclaimed UC Berkeley program
called DeCal <http://www.decal.org/>, which allows students to propose and
teach courses to their peers with guidance from a faculty member.

Hatem Bazian, the faculty sponsor of the course, proposed by undergraduate
Paul Hadweh, said the class went through standard review procedures and was
approved on multiple occasions before it was abruptly suspended this week
without warning or discussion.

“This was disheartening and insulting and shameful of the university,” said
Bazian, a lecturer in Middle Eastern studies and ethnic studies. “They are
essentially throwing the student under the bus and responding to political

Bazian said the course was designed to offer a “comparative approach” and
that respected scholars have used the “colonialism” lens to study the
UC Berkeley dean who violated sexual harassment policies returns to campus

Read more

“The fact that something is controversial does not mean it’s antisemitic.
It does not demean any Jewish person,” he said.

Hadweh said no one from the administration contacted him before publicly
announcing the suspension.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated,” said the 22-year-old senior. “I
knew I followed all the policies and procedures.”

But in a letter
<http://www.amchainitiative.org/letter-to-uc-berkeley-chancellor-dirks> to
UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the AMCHA Initiative, an
organization dedicated to “protecting Jewish students”, attacked Hadweh and
Bazian and cited the course’s connection to the boycott, divestment and
sanctions (BDS) movement.

“It was completely one-sided,” the AMCHA director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin,
said in an interview. “The perspective was one that … is a hateful one.”

BDS and SJP leaders have argued that they are not antisemitic
that they are pushing for a boycott of Israel in response to human rights
abuses associated with the occupation of Palestinian territories.

Critics, however, contend that those groups want to dismantle the Jewish
state, and AMCHA cited the syllabus <http://www.decal.org/courses/4237>’s
goal to “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine” as evidence
<http://www.amchainitiative.org/letter-to-uc-berkeley-chancellor-dirks> of
an effort to “eliminate” Israel.

At UC Berkeley, where student activists launched the Free Speech Movement
the 1960s, a group of Jewish professors have called on administrators to
reinstate the course. They argued that critics are misrepresenting the
class and that the university was stifling academic freedom in response to
demands from Israel advocacy groups.

Regarding the notion that “any reference to settler colonialism is
anti-Semitic”, the professors wrote: “This claim is patently false, a
recent innovation on the part of those seeking to suppress open
intellectual inquiry on Zionism, Israel, Palestine, and the occupation. A
great number of publications, many emerging from within the State of
Israel, have considered settler colonialism to be a proper framework for
studying the area.”

Michael Burawoy, a sociology professor who signed the letter, said it was
obvious that the university was concerned about losing funding in the wake
of the backlash: “This was an arbitrary administrative intervention brought
about by pressure.”

Bazian added that he felt the situation was particularly unfair to Hadweh
and the 28 students enrolled in the course. “I’m completely saddened.”

The students in the class published a public letter
Thursday condemning the suspension as “an act of discrimination against
students who wanted to debate and discuss this contentious issue”.

Rossman-Benjamin said her group wasn’t trying to target the specific
student, but wanted to push for an improved review system for DeCal
curricula. “The student did nothing wrong … The process broke down.”

A UC Berkeley spokesman, Dan Mogulof, claimed that a dean was not properly
notified of the course and said administrators are considering multiple
options, including canceling the course altogether or reinstating it with

“It should also be noted that the dean is very concerned about a course,
even a student-run course, which espouses a single political viewpoint
and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing rather than an
opportunity for the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known
for,” he said in a statement.

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