On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs sent the following email to Jewish students in response to an email they sent to President Wong. For further context, see this article in the JWeekly, published Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Dear Sasha and students,
Thank you for reaching out to President Wong; because your concern focuses on an academic department, he has asked me to reply on his behalf.
I appreciate your concern about the link that appears on AMED's Facebook page and your efforts to engage in productive dialogue on the subject. The principle of academic freedom gives faculty the right to express themselves on controversial subjects—indeed, our very identity as a university depends on such free expression (by students as well as faculty), and SF State has historically protected this right vigorously and proudly. As a public university, however, we also recognize the importance of not endorsing particular political positions and doctrines or excluding individuals from participating in the educational process because of their beliefs. Finding the right balance between these principles is a critical and constant challenge, and it applies to the post that you identified; while its author has the right to express controversial political opinions, the appearance of those opinions on a departmental social media site raises justifiable alarm. We have therefore asked that the post be removed to ensure that there can be no implication that the views expressed are those of the University.
“That’s going on the ‘gram!” Variations of this phrase became a joke on our Birthright trip whenever we would stop for an extended period of time to take “Instagram worthy” photos in iconic locations in Israel. I can guarantee that everyone who has gone on Birthright has a photo of riding on a camel, standing atop Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and, of course, some artsy close up of the colorful stalls of goods being sold at the shuk (an Israeli open air market). One of my favorite things to do is go back in my phone or on my friends’ Facebook pages and look through pictures from our trip for the thousandth time. It’s easy to relive experiences through photographs and I’m lucky to have them as documentation of the life-changing journey I went on. But rather than post posed photos of myself and my friends, I want to share a moment that did not get to be captured digitally because every one of us was so immersed in living it first hand. And despite what is represented on social media, it was this particular experience which solidified my connection to my fellow participants, the trip leaders, and the people, culture, and land of Israel.