California Scholars For Academic Freedom object to UC President Napolitano and the Chancellors of the University of California interfering in the academic freedom of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as they vote on whether to ratify a resolution calling on the AAA to boycott Israeli academic institutions.


April 25, 2016

Dear President Napolitano and the Chancellors of the University of California:

The California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of over 200 faculty, strongly object to your attempts to interfere in the academic freedom of the 10,000 members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as they vote on whether to ratify a resolution calling on the AAA to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Whether or not an academic boycott is an appropriate response to concerns over Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, it is not the place of university administrators to weigh in on positions taken by academic associations. Nor is it the place of university presidents and chancellors to interfere in the voting procedures by which professional scholarly associations decide on their mandates. Your uncalled for interference is also likely to be perceived as an act of intimidation by both anthropologists who already work in the UC system and those who might be interested in joining our faculty in the future.

In addition, we strongly object to your failure to consult with your respective faculty Senates on the wisdom of sending this letter. Rather than acting unilaterally, failing to honor the tradition of shared governance in the UC system, and interfering with scholarly associations, you should be affirming the academic freedom of scholars in the UC system, in the United States more generally, and elsewhere to engage in political statements and actions. Such political actions and statements may include boycotts, which are a time-honored, effective, and legitimate form of political speech and action.

Your letter speaks in defense of academic freedom. This is precisely what the AAA is engaged in: asserting the right and academic freedom of its members to vote on a proposal for the Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, in response to their involvement in Israeli state violations of Palestinian human and civil rights, as well as restriction of Palestinian scholars’ and students’ academic freedom.

Anthropology is a profession that focuses on international issues, including how global inequalities affect the lives of marginalized peoples. The AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states: “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation.” Indeed, the AAA membership has endorsed numerous resolutions in defense of those rights, and the Association has a long record of taking stances against human rights abuses and has engaged in previous boycotts.

Prior to this vote, the AAA engaged in a three-year democratic process which included panels and conference discussions as well as a major Association Task Force investigation and peer-reviewed report. Furthermore, the vote is taking place in accordance with the Association’s bylaws and procedures. You should not be attempting to stifle this vote, the AAA process, and the voices of the AAA membership.

As leaders of our academic institutions, you have a responsibility to protect scholars’ rights to academic freedom and political action, including their right to vote for this resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

On behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,

Professor Nancy Gallagher
University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor Susan Slyomovics
University of California, Los Angeles

Professor Baki Tezcan,
University of California, Davis

Cc: Cc: Chancellor Howard Gillman, UC Irvine
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, UC Riverside
Chancellor Henry T. Yang UC Santa Barbara
Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks, UC Berkeley
Chancellor Gene Block, UC Los Angeles
Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego
Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, UC Santa Cruz
Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis
Chancellor Dorothy Leland, UC Merced
Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC San Francisco

*CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.*


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