Tag Archives: SJP

Boycotting Israeli Academics? A Response to TSL

The American Studies Association (ASA), a scholarly group that publishes American Quarterly, announced in a statement Dec. 16 that it “endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

The ASA’s statement was strongly criticized by the greater world of academia, with dozens of universities and university presidents, including Pomona’s President Oxtoby, condemning the move. President Sean Decatur of Kenyon College stated that the boycott contradicted the concept of academic freedom, which he defined as “the unfettered exchange of ideas.”

This response repudiated the burgeoning movement in some realms of academia to define academic freedom as “the unfettered exchange of ideas – so long as those ideas adhere to a left-liberal orthodoxy. If not, utilize the existence of right-leaning beliefs to infer a degree of moral turpitude upon the person and engage in thinly veiled ad hominem.”

Admittedly this interpretation was also limited by its verbosity, but it still apparently holds some sway in the precincts of Pomona College, where an Opinions writer in the Feb. 7 issue of The Student Life took issue with President Oxtoby and dozens of other universities’ stance on the importance of academic freedom.

There seems to be some confusion on the part of this column about the facts on the ground. The author declared that Israel has “one of the most illiberal systems of education,” but then completely failed to mention a single university located inside the nation of Israel and seemed to interpret border security measures between warring states as a direct attack on Palestinian academia, and not as a larger part of being in a state of combat. In addition, the author does not mention that, at Israeli universities, students are admitted regardless of ethnicity or faith. Nor does the author mention that these institutions actually practice affirmative action to increase Arab attendance. In addition, the “most illiberal” charge becomes laughable when one considers that Israel has a free press and strongly independent judiciary, and that most of its neighbors are dictatorships that do impose limits on the press and academics, and engage in actual political oppression (see Iran’s hanging of sexual and political dissidents; Egypt’s targeting of Christians; everything Syria has done recently, etc.).

This confusion continues as the author notes that Israel’s activities “have been likened to those of South African apartheid.” The passive voice here is important, because the author can simply make the insinuation without substantiating it in any way. To clarify, ethnic minorities in Israel can serve in government, vote, and benefit from Israeli social services. The only conceivable similarity is that the bulk of Palestinians are physically separated from the Israelis, but unlike South Africa, their separation stems from the fact that they have two (or three, depending on how one categorizes the Hamas-Fatah split) de facto national governments and distinct, if disputed, territory. The two are in conflict with one another, but the history, attitudes, and policies are very different from those in South Africa.

The writer also trotted out a point that claims Israel has violated more UN resolutions than any other nation. What he does not explain is that these resolutions were issued primarily by the General Assembly, a generally petty and vindictively political body, and were also non-binding, a term that should not need defining but apparently has some nuance that escaped our TSL author. The only thing this little statistic tells us is that the General Assembly has a disproportionate interest in the nation of Israel. In addition, the UN frequently ignores the transgressions of its authoritarian member-states in favor of attacking the politically vulnerable. For example, in a recent report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child condemned the Holy See for its treatment of children and further demanded that the Vatican abandon several of its long-held political and moral positions in favor of the UN doctrine. It is rather surprising that this was the most pressing issue for this UN committee, but considering that it is made up of members from human rights stalwarts such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and until last year, Syria, its judgments should probably just be held as sacrosanct. In reality, however, the UN is hardly an authoritative body to appeal to in this instance.

None of this is to say that Israel is blameless, or that it has not committed transgressions in this conflict. Very few countries can actually claim and hold the moral high ground, and attempting to develop a simple “good/bad” dichotomy, on either side, serves no practical purpose. To do so would simply drive one party from the negotiating table. This is the primary issue with the ASA’s boycott and the TSL author’s support for it. The boycott attempts to ideologically isolate one side, which will likely lead to belief polarization and continued conflict. This is a region with political, religious and ethnic conflicts that span millennia. However, the TSL author seems to think that isolating Israel further will make them more likely to negotiate. This seems unlikely, because while the author heavily emphasized the Palestinian liberty interests, he failed to note that the Israelis also have pressing liberty and security concerns. The Israelis are already isolated, considering that countries that they have fought against on multiple occasions in the last 70 years surround them. In addition, several of their neighbors have also denied their right to exist at various points in time. Isolating them further will not convince them of the security of their position, nor is it at all justified in the context of this conflict. Free academic exchanges will keep international influence ensconced in both countries and improve the likelihood of a real solution. Only an incredibly tendentious reading of history can justify defining this conflict in an absurdly simple and dualistic manner and make a boycott a reasonable response. A real solution means bringing both sides into negotiations, not just one.

[This article has been edited to reflect the fact that The Student Life article referenced is an opinion piece rather than a news article.]

Scripps, CMC Faculty Exchange Blows on Raviv Incident

The Scripps College faculty made a thinly veiled criticism of Claremont McKenna College Associate Professor of Economics Yaron Raviv and the CMC administration in a May 9 statement, prompting a dismissive reply by the CMC faculty obtained by the Claremont Independent.

The Scripps faculty statement referred to the March 4 incident at CMC’s Collins Dining Hall between Professor Raviv and a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), who attends Pitzer College, during an SJP protest in which they simulated an Israeli checkpoint.

“The Scripps College faculty wishes to reach out to the 5 C students, and in particular to Scripps students, and assert that the Scripps faculty takes the incident of March 4 on CMC Campus very seriously, especially in regard to the alleged verbal abuse of a student by a faculty member,” the statement begins.

Although the Scripps faculty statement never mentions Professor Raviv by name, several of the comments are clearly directed at him and seem to implicate his guilt in making a supposedly racial slur, “cockroach,” to the SJP member.

“If such an incident had occurred on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident,” the statement continues, “and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.”

“We uphold the rights of all community members to organize, protest and express dissent without being subjected to racism and verbal abuse. We abhor the use of racialized epithets that undermine the principles of community, diversity and inclusivity that we, as a faculty, affirm.”

The CMC faculty released a statement in response to the Scripps faculty statement on June 18.

“We [members] of the CMC faculty write concerning your ‘Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus,’” the statement begins.  “…We are deeply troubled by this statement and what it implies.”

The CMC faculty statement notes that the Scripps faculty failed to cite the CMC investigation into the March 4 incident, only citing the investigation conducted by Pitzer. The separate investigations appear to contradict each other, with the former finding, “When impeding access to the main entrance of Collins Dining Hall, the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstration’s Policy and The Claremont Colleges Demonstrations Policy,” and the latter apparently finding the performance in compliance with the demonstrations policy, although it has not yet been released to the public.

A picture of the event (link below) clearly shows SJP members blocking the entrance to Collins Dining Hall as a part of their performance.

The CMC faculty statement also points out that although the CMC investigation found Professor Raviv’s actions “inappropriate and unprofessional, they were not severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy.”

“Yet these actions were simply ignored by the Scripps faculty,” the statement continues, “as if CMC had done nothing in response to the March incident.”

Professor Raviv, an Israel native, refuted the allegation that he used a racial slur in an April 22 interview with the Claremont Independent, saying, “First of all, Israelis do not use that kind of expression with respect to Palestinians—that’s a total lie. But I don’t need to use this argument because there was no way that me, or any other person, could tell that the person in front of me was Palestinian. How could I know that he was a Palestinian? His English was much better than mine; he grew up here in the states.”

The CMC faculty statement was signed by 46 members of the CMC faculty.

A representative from the Scripps faculty could not be reached for comment before press time.

Transcripts of the respective faculty statements are included below.

 

 

Scripps faculty statement:

Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus

The Scripps College Faculty wishes to reach out to 5 C students, and in particular to Scripps students, and assert that the Scripps faculty takes the incident of March 4 on CMC Campus very seriously, especially in regard to the alleged verbal abuse of a student by a faculty member.

The Pitzer College investigation into the matter has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event. It is CMC, however, that has the responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Scripps College’s purview. If such an incident had occurred on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident, and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.

We wish to affirm that academic freedom, exposure to multiple perspectives, and engagement in debate and dialogue are central to the mission of colleges and universities as centers for learning and independent thought. We uphold the rights of all community members to organize, protest, and express dissent without being subjected to racism and verbal abuse. We abhor the use of racialized epithets that undermine principles of community, diversity, and inclusivity that we, as a faculty, affirm.

Because of the controversy surrounding the handling of this event, we ask that the Intercollegiate Faculty Council evaluate the Intercollegiate Demonstrations Policy and make recommendations regarding its revision to the Presidents Council, so that the policy can be fairly and objectively applied in the future.

 

 

CMC faculty statement:

June 18, 2013

Dear Scripps Faculty,

We [members] of the CMC faculty write concerning your “Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus,” which, apparently, passed the Scripps faculty on Thursday, May 9. (We have no information on the actual vote.)

We are deeply troubled by this statement and what it implies. We particularly call your attention to the second paragraph of your statement:

“The Pitzer College investigation into the matter has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event. It is CMC, however, that has the responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Scripps College’s purview. If such an incident had taken place on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident, and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.”

What is so odd about this account is that it references the Pitzer College investigation, takes it as authoritative, and makes no reference at all to CMC’s own investigation and the disciplinary actions already taken by CMC. By noting CMC’s “responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior,” the statement implies that CMC had not completed its investigation, or perhaps had not even done one. Yet, as the Scripps faculty knew on May 9, CMC President Pamela Gann had twice communicated the results of CMC’s investigation and administrative action to the Claremont Colleges community (April 19 and May 7), and in the first of those communications attached the actual report of the CMC Dean of Students. It is our understanding that these communications were forwarded to all Scripps faculty when they were originally sent from President Gann’s office and, moreover, that these materials were made available to the Scripps faculty through Sakai prior to the May 9 faculty meeting. Although CMC made its own report available to the Claremont Colleges community, we have seen no corresponding formal report on the march 4 incident from Pitzer College, and thus are in no position to conclude that the Pitzer College investigation “has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event.

According to the April 19, 2013, report by the Dean of Students of Claremont McKenna College:

“The [CMC] review included information provided through interviews with 11 witnesses, including the Pitzer student and CMC faculty member involved in the incident. Additional witnesses included two other SJP students, who observed the interaction with the faculty member, the Campus Safety Officer, as well as other students and staff members who were present. I also reviewed relevant documents, including the event registration form, email communications about the event, and the Campus Safety incident report.”

Among the key factual findings of the CMC investigation are the following:

“The SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] event at Collins Dining Hall involved a “street theatre” performance that simulated Israeli identification checkpoints. The SJP organized itself so that anyone seeking to access the main entrance to Collins Dining Hall had to pass through the simulated checkpoint, including being asked to present identification to the actors. . . .

The event participants complied with requests to adjust their event so as to not restrict access for a period of time, but at a certain point reorganized themselves in a manner that again restricted access.”

We note that to block access to a campus building is a violation of the “Policy on Demonstrations at the Claremont Colleges” of August 28, 2001, which prohibits “disruptive actions or demonstrations . . . that restrict free movement on any of the campuses, or interfere with, or impeded access to, regular activities or facilities of any of the Colleges or CCU.” In the words of the CMC report:

“When impeding access to the main entrance of Collins Dining Hall, the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstrations Policy and the Claremont College’s Demonstration Policy, both of which prohibit disruptive and/or non-peaceful events, including ‘actions in which there is a deliberative disruption or an impedance of access to regular activities of the College or of the College community, including those which restrict free movement on the campus.”

Yet the Scripps faculty concluded that “the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event.” On what grounds do the Scripps faculty reject the conclusion of the CMC investigation? What evidence did the Scripps faculty consider in reaching its judgment that the CMC report was in error? Recently, a photograph of the incident was published that provides additional evidence that for at least a time the demonstrating students blocked access to Collins Hall. The photograph can be viewed here:

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/cockroach-curses-and-jew-hunting-in-california-colleges/2013/05/10/

The CMC faculty have seen no report that contradicts the facts adduced by the investigation conducted by the CMC Dean of Students. We have seen a statement by President Trombley of Pitzer College that takes issue with the message that President Gann of CMC sent to the Claremont Colleges community. Yet, here is part of President Trombley’s description of the March 4 incident in her memorandum of April 26:

“During the street theater event, the CMC Dean of Students appeared and asked that they move so as to not impede access to the front entrance of the dining hall. The students complied. The students also were asked two other times to move; first by a food services manager and then by a campus safety officer. The students complied.”

If this account is accurate, the students of SJP blocked access to the dining hall at least twice, and perhaps three times: first, when the CMC Dean of Students asked them to move; a second time when the food service manager asked them to move; and (although this is not entirely clear from President Trombley’s account) a third time when the campus safety officer asked them to move. But whether there were two or three separate blockages, President Trombley’s account seems to confirm, not contradict, the conclusion of the CMC investigation.

In her communications to the Claremont Colleges community of March 15, April 19, and May 7, President Gann reported the following facts: (1) in the days immediately following the March 4 incident CMC launched a detailed investigation of the incident conducted by the Dean of Students; (2) CMC facilitated an informal grievance process chaired by the CMC Dean of Faculty after the Pitzer student filed an informal written grievance; (3) the parties to this informal process failed to reach a resolution; (4) CMC then completed its investigation after interviewing 11 witnesses and relevant documents; (5) during and after the informal grievance process the Pitzer student and/or his support person were responsible for breaches of confidentiality; (6) after the informal grievance process failed, the Pitzer student filed a formal grievance; and (7) when the Pitzer student and his support person made clear that they would not abide by CMC’s confidentiality requirements going forward, CMC dismissed the student’s formal grievance complaint against the CMC faculty member.

President Gann also reported that (1) the CMC faculty member was publicly admonished for his inappropriate statements to the student and has been subject to further discipline; (2) that the faculty member has acknowledged that his statements were inappropriate and unprofessional and has apologized for his statements; and (3) that though the faculty member’s statements were inappropriate and unprofessional, they were not so severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy. Yet, these actions by CMC were simply ignored by the Scripps faculty, as if CMC had done nothing in response to the March 4 incident.

It is our hope that deliberation on this or other controversial matters affecting the Claremont Colleges will be fully informed by all the relevant facts.

Sincerely,

[At this point, 46 members of the CMC faculty sign the statement.]

Professor Raviv talks bias, Pitzer, and cockroaches

By Brad Richardson and Colin Spence

 

Up until now, CMC Associate Professor of Economics Yaron Raviv has remained completely silent on his involvement in a March 4 conflict between himself and members of a pro-Palestine student group, Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). When the Claremont Independent requested an interview March 12 via email, Raviv politely declined, saying he wanted to wait for the review process to take its course before going public with his side of the story.

Raviv, an Israel native, has been accused of using a racial slur and offensive language when he called a Pitzer student and SJP member a “fucking cockroach.” The group also alleged that Raviv tried to shut down a demonstration that they were performing, which included checking IDs at the front entrance of Collins Dining Hall during dinner service in order to simulate a West Bank and Gaza Strip Israeli checkpoint.

CMC President Pamela Gann sent an April 19 email to the Claremont Colleges Community reporting the findings of a comprehensive review conducted by the administration. Although Gann ruled that, “The CMC faculty member made statements to the Pitzer student that were inappropriate and unprofessional,” she also wrote that, “even if bias is assumed, the comments made, when viewed in the context and in their totality, were not sufficiently severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy.”

Furthermore, she ruled that, “the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstrations Policy and the Claremont Colleges Demonstration Policy, both of which prohibit disruptive and/or non-peaceful events,” and “The CMC faculty member did not improperly interfere with or attempt to stop the event.”

Now that the review is complete and the administration has ruled on its findings, Raviv agreed to take part in an interview with the Claremont Independent. Below is a transcript of that interview.

 

CI: What happened the evening of March 4?

Raviv: I was sitting in [my office] grading a midterm exam. It was around 5:20 and a Pitzer student called my office. He said, “Can I come to your office? I really need your help.” He sounded very distressed, and I said, “Sure, come to my office.” He was probably just downstairs, and he got to my office in a minute. He said, “Listen, there is some demonstration in the dining hall.” I said, “Okay, calm down, let me…go and check what is going on.” So I [went] down to the dining hall, and once we [got] on the main sidewalk, he took a turn because he was afraid to be seen with me.

 

CI: Did you know the student?

Raviv: Yeah, I knew the student. He was not my student. He knew that I was Israeli. I met him once at some kind of social event.

 

CI: What did you see when you got to the dining hall?

Raviv: I saw a couple of students [handing out] some fliers, a couple of students standing on the side of Collins Dining Hall and crying, and I saw a line of students blocking the entrance to the dining hall.

I went up to go into the dining hall and the students were standing shoulder to shoulder, and I could not pass. They told me, “Show us your ID.” I said, “What?” “Yeah, yeah, this is an Israeli checkpoint, show us your ID if you want to come inside.” I said, “I’m not going to show you my ID. Have you ever seen an Israeli checkpoint?” One of the students said, “Yeah, yeah, I saw an Israeli checkpoint.” I said, “Who is your leader? Who brought you here?” Then they told me, “We don’t have a leader. We’ve come by ourselves, and this is an approved demonstration.” I said, “Okay, okay, let me in.” They let me in, you know, so there was not any physical contact.

I went inside the dining hall. I was looking for the dining hall manager. I called her from inside the kitchen and I told her, “Listen, the students have the right to demonstrate, they probably have approved that, but they cannot block the entrance. Please move them 10 feet aside. They can do their political activity there. Just move them 10 feet aside so they will not block the entrance and hassle students. That’s illegal.” She went outside and she talked with the students, and at first it looked like they complied. So they took off the ropes—they had some ropes on the side of the dining hall—and they moved aside. However, the moment she went inside, they immediately blocked the entrance again. I went inside the dining hall again. I was looking for [the dining hall manager], and I could not find her, so I went to the cashier and I asked her to use her phone. I called [Campus Safety]—I was the one who called [Campus Safety]—and I told the dispatcher, “Listen, the students have the right to demonstrate, but you need to send someone to move them 10 feet aside. They cannot block the entrance.”

The [Campus Safety] officer arrived and he parked his car 30-40 feet south of the entrance in front of Story House. I saw the guy and wanted to go talk to him to explain what was going on. I started to walk toward his direction, and a [student from the demonstration approached me] and told me to my face, “Who are you? Show me your ID! Are you faculty or a visitor? If you are a visitor, you cannot be on campus after 5:00 p.m. Show me your campus pass!” I told him, “I will never show you my ID. It’s not your business who I am. I can be a faculty or a visitor; it’s not your business.” I kept walking toward the officer and this guy is in my face, you know, like overly aggressively. I started to talk with the [Campus Safety] officer and I said, “Listen, this student event has been approved for this demonstration, but they cannot block the entrance, you need to move them 10 feet aside.” To give [the Campus Safety officer] some validity to what I was saying, I pulled out my faculty ID. The [student] who was in my face basically said, “Oh, you are faculty! I will hunt you down!” And I said, “What? You will hunt me down? You’re a fucking, little cockroach.”

So [the student] heard that and said, “Oh! Now I’ve got you!” The moment he said that, I was really concerned—not because of the “cockroach,” I was concerned because of the f-word. I immediately disentangled because I didn’t want there to be a physical [altercation], so I went back to the Pitzer student who had asked for my help. I told him, “Listen, campus safety is here. They will take it from there.” And I left.

 

CI: So, I’d like to get more into what SJP accused you of. They accused you of trying to take down the event—

Raviv: Yeah, the two main accusations were, first, that I tried to take down the event. And then, they assumed that I meant to demean the other student as a Palestinian [through a racial slur]. So, first of all, you can read it in the report, I never asked that the event stop. I just asked that they move it 10 feet aside, and this was confirmed by [Campus Safety] and the dining hall manager. [Regarding] the “cockroach,” when I came home and told my wife [what had happened], I said I was really worried about the f-word and I didn’t talk about the “cockroach” at all.

First of all, Israelis do not use that kind of expression with respect to Palestinians—that’s a total lie. But I don’t need to use this argument because there was no way that me, or any other person, could tell that the person in front of me was Palestinian. How could I know that he was a Palestinian? His English was much better than mine; he grew up here in the states. He, on the other hand, knew that I was an Israeli based on my accent when he said, “I will hunt you down.”

 

CI: But you did know that this was a pro-Palestinian event.

Raviv: Yeah, I knew that. But the probability that you see an American Jew is much higher than the chance that you see a Palestinian.

 

CI: So you didn’t know the student and you didn’t know he was Palestinian before it was reported?

Raviv: No, and I didn’t have any way to know it, so that’s ridiculous. To say that this is the way that Israelis talk is ridiculous, but my argument is that I didn’t know that he was a Palestinian. Nobody could know that he was a Palestinian. I didn’t know his race. The report of the [Campus Safety] officer describes him as a white male. How could I know that he was a Palestinian?

I’m actually a two-state solution person. [The SJP] blames me for being racist, [but when] I was on sabbatical last year, I rented my house to a traditional Muslim-Arab family—and [the SJP] still calls me a racist.

 

CI: Another claim that the SJP made was that you said, “All Pitzer students are [fucking] cockroaches.”

Raviv: Not true. It’s not true. I only used the word “cockroach” once to the best of my recollection, and it was directly to that student. All I said was, “You’re a fucking, little cockroach.”

I poorly chose my words. I regret using bad language. We should all aspire to higher standards and not chaos. That’s not appropriate, so I’m sorry for that. But we need to understand what provoked this kind of language. What the student did to me, there’s no equivalence. Worst case scenario, I curse at somebody. But he has caused me real damage.

[Raviv said that since the incident, he has received several unpleasant and downright threatening emails. He shared a couple with the CI.]

Raviv: So, this is an email, for example, from “Juice2”: “Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever. I thought you might enjoy that since you seem to be such a huge supporter of genocide. Cheers.”

I got several like this: “I am one of your students. What right do you have to call one of my colleagues a ‘cockroach,’ you filthy Israeli cunt? Please, could I ask you to leave the U.S. and return to the land of Zion-Nazis where you can slaughter innocent cockroaches at whim? See you in class you wasted inbred.”

 

CI: How many emails did you receive?

Raviv: Eight. Something like that.

[Finally, Raviv claimed that reckless reporting on the initial controversy has been the cause of these emails and several other damages that he has incurred.]

Raviv: At least the The Student Life didn’t publish my name initially—that was the Claremont Port Side. When I talked with Carlos [Ballesteros of TSL], I asked why he posted my name, and he said, “Well, the students have been complaining about you.” I said, “If someone had complained that I was a pedophile, would you still publish my name?” Why wouldn’t you wait to see what happens first? If someone claimed that I was a rapist, would you publish it? They really damaged my reputation. I have some Arab students in the class, I have some Palestinian students in the class, and they accused me of being a racist.

This has never happened in the college, this kind of persecution just because of political views. And you try to ask yourself, if I was an Irish-American, would they accuse me of being a racist? Or are they accusing me only because I’m an Israeli-Jew? So now, I ask you, where is the bias-related behavior? If I was an American and I said, “Fucking little cockroach,” would they accuse me of being racist?