The following letter from Dean Carla Hesse rescinds the suspension of the revised Palestine course at the University of California at Berkeley.
BERKELEY: College of Letters & Science Office of the Deans 101 Durant Hall #2920
September 19, 2016
DEPARTMENT CHAIRS OF THE DIVISION OF SOCIAL SCIENCES DIVISIONAL
COUNCIL OF THE ACADEMIC SENATE (UC BERKELEY)
I fully support and defend the principles and policies of our campus that protect the academic freedom of all members of our community, whether students, faculty staff or visitors, as well as the shared governance of our campus by the administration and faculty Senate.
It is in this spirit that I write in response to the understandable concerns that have been raised regarding the suspension of Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, I made the decision to suspend ES198: Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis, until it could be further reviewed. I did so because it became apparent that neither the Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, nor I had been made aware formally of this DeCal class offering, nor seen the syllabus.
Immediately following that decision, I met with the Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, the faculty sponsor and the student facilitator of ES198 to review and discuss the course materials.
The meeting resolved the procedural issues concerning academic review and consultation, but led me to request that the Chair, faculty sponsor and student facilitator, work together to address the following concerns before deciding how to move forward:
1) The Committee on Courses and Instruction Checklist for Departmental Review and approval asks the Department to determine whether “the content of the proposed course is within the scope of your department’s academic program” (link to full text here). http://vcue.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/deptchair_checklist.pdf
I asked them to clarify how a course focused exclusively on Palestine was consistent with the academic mission of the Department of Ethnic Studies, as opposed to another department or program with expertise in regional area studies.
2) I asked them to assess whether the course description and syllabus had a particular political agenda structured into its framing and weekly assignments in such as way as to limit open inquiry of the issues it engages, and whether it potentially violated the 2007 Regents Policy on Course Content (see link below) and/or the 2015 Regents Principles Against Intolerance (regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/aar/mare.pdf).
3) I asked them to assess whether the stated objective of the course to “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine” potentially violated Regents Policy by crossing over the line from teaching to political advocacy and organizing and referred them to the 2007 Regents Policy on Course Content. I quote for your reference:
The Regents….are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination….constitutes misuse of the University as an institution (link to full text here) http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/governance/policies/2301.html
Let me be clear: Deans review, but do not approve the academic content of DeCal courses. I did not request or require any revisions of the content of the course. I asked the Department Chair to consult with her colleagues and the student facilitator to provide me with clarifications of the three issues above. It is the responsibility of the Dean to insure that our academic programs are consistent with University and campus policies and practices.
The Department has now responded to my questions and concerns. The Student Facilitator, the Chair and the Executive Committee of the Department of Ethnic Studies determined that revisions of the course in light of these concerns were necessary and appropriate. It is my understanding that they have posted a revised version of the course description and syllabus.
I am therefore rescinding my suspension of the course.
Carla Hesse Peder
Sather Professor of History
Dean of Social Sciences
Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science
cc: Nicholas B. Dirks, Chancellor Carol T. Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor Shari Huhndorf, Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies