An Open Letter to President Mahoney - SF Hillel Students Respond to Leila Khaled at SF State:
This letter was emailed to SF State administrators on Wednesday, September 9th.
Dear Dr. Mahoney,
First, we would like to thank you for meeting with us yesterday. We appreciate you taking the time to hear directly how Jewish students and our allies are feeling about the upcoming lecture hosting Leila Khaled. We’re writing you this letter to name the actionable steps we discussed and with which we expect the university to move forward.
As we articulated in the meeting, we agree with you that it is important for universities to ensure academic freedom and viewpoint diversity. As you know, our community has experienced viewpoint discrimination in recent years – our speakers have been interrupted, our peers have been alienated in courses, and our views have been discriminated against and excluded. We all directly benefit when we can learn with and from individuals who see the world differently. And, SF State can protect our learning environment while upholding our mission to “require students to engage in open-minded inquiry and reflection”, and “become productive, ethical, active citizens with a global perspective.” This is not achieved through academic freedom alone; we also expect academic responsibility and are still deeply distressed by this blatant violation of that responsibility.
As we shared with you, we are worried about the normalization of violent rhetoric. We live in a world with rising violent hate crime rates against Jews and other minority communities, where divisive rhetoric emboldens teenagers to take up arms and threaten acts of violence. Seeing someone who engaged in terror be held up as a role model, we are worried about the potential for hateful or dangerous backlash. We are upset to hear from some of our friends that they are “grateful to be home” right now with distanced learning, where they are at least physically safe. But as you also believe, everyone on our campus deserves to feel psychologically safe. Inviting an individual who used violence against innocent civilians and who regularly endorses antisemitism does not make us feel safe and does not create a healthy learning environment.
We are saddened that so many in our campus community, and the broader Jewish world, are not surprised to see this happening at SF State. Our university made a commitment to address the systemic antisemitism and anti-Zionism on our campus; students should not expect these occurrences. This endless cycle needs to stop, and we have the mechanisms in place to do so.
So where do we go from here?
In our meeting, we discussed what can happen. We acknowledge campus professionals are already moving forward on some of these pieces. Our intention in naming what we agreed to here is to hold the university accountable to these action items:
We did not discuss it directly in our meeting, but another piece that came up in conversation with our peers is that we were promised by the university a full-time Jewish Student Life Coordinator. In order to move forward in these action steps, our community feels it is necessary to speedily fill this position with a qualified, dedicated leader.
We are grateful to be students on a campus that protects academic freedom and welcomes diverse viewpoints and identities. And, we are hopeful that you and the university will uphold and protect the values of a safe, inclusive, and academically engaged campus environment.
Ocean Noah, Class of 2021
Student President, SF Hillel
Zachary Weinstein, Class of 2022
Student President, I-Team and SF Hillel Design Tribe leader
Connor MacLennan, Class of 2022
SF Hillel Design Tribe leader, StandWithUs Emerson Fellow
9/10/2020 01:04:24 pm
It is very disturbing to be learning that the situation for Jewish Students is still difficult after many years of the JCRC having to intervene on behalf of students. Jewish students and all students should feel safe on their campus and it is not so at SFSU and seems to be getting worse. Please do not delay in instituting the actions agreed upon in this letter.
9/10/2020 01:09:37 pm
Excellent letter and do hope that Mahoney responds in a positive way. When the Jewish students at UCB tried to get the Palestinian students to take down their pictures of Odah and Khaled who they glorify as heroes, the Jewish students were shot down at the student senate meeting by over 200 Palestinian, Black, and even Jewish students who are anti Zionist. Those who were pro Israel were not really heard, and the senator who submitted a resolution to the Student senate condemning the use of the Student Union as a place to glorify killers, resigned from his positon in the Senate. These students do not engage in conversation, have developed acute intolerance of others, and see life in black and white terms. The University has failed to teach them how to think about complex issues.
9/10/2020 01:39:10 pm
I am faculty in the SFSU Liberal Arts Dept. of Comm Studies. I believe it is important that Jewish faculty work in partnership with like-minded minority faculty to co-develop course curriculum that can be offered through the departments as legitimate electives, not just in the Ethnic Studies Departments. Fighting Anti-Semitism should be acknowledged by the university as equal to Black Lives Matter, and students should learn how to recognize and dispute hateful speech against whomever it is directed. At minimum, there should be video produced modules on tolerance that instructors in any discipline can include for discussion in their courses as part of the curriculum.
linda sarah radin
9/10/2020 01:39:31 pm
It is extremely disturbing that our Jewish students are still fighting for safe and tolerant environments in which to have meaningful dialogue. Having someone such as Khaled speak only creates more division and hostility. Why do we still acknowledge and honor someone like Khalid by giving her a public voice in order to deliver a hateful message.
9/10/2020 01:41:19 pm
SFSU is known all around the state, country, and even globally as a university that allows anti-semitism to flourish on campus.
9/10/2020 02:08:18 pm
SFSU should take this as an opportunity to educate about the worldwide scourge of antisemitism. I would like to see an entire university wide series in the scourge and virus of antisemitism and its many mutations including anti-Zionism and lies about the state of Israel, the only place Jews can call home. Those who deny Jews their ancient homeland in which they are the oldest indigenous population are anti Jewish racists. Despite our endorsement of the sentiment that Black Lives Matter, before we can support the specific organization Black Lives Matter they must disown their Antisemitic charter. We Jews and our Jewish democratic state of Israel are the champions of diversity and the dignity of difference worldwide. Those who suppress us will ultimately suppress all those who do not conform. We are the supporters of the different and the poor and the vulnerable and Antisemites do not like those who would speak truth to power. The terrorists in Palestine and the misogynist homophobic clerical leaders there who suppress and kill their own people do not like democracy. and try to shut the Jews up. Have faith, Jewish students! We will prevail. The arc of history is on our side.
9/12/2020 09:24:53 pm
Hatred of any ethnic group for no reason is an abomination. Jew hatred is no different than any other form of racism. All are hateful.
9/17/2020 12:48:08 pm
I'm class of 2009, and I'm sad to say that this is just par for the course for SFSU. It's really awful to know that nothing has changed.
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