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.
I especially appreciate your effort to stimulate discussion about the definition of Zionism and the complexity and range of meanings that it implies. Given that this question has been a flash-point on our campus, this discussion appears to be long overdue. Inspired by your message, I am currently exploring with the deans, Academic Senate, and cabinet how the university might sponsor such a discussion at a level that could foster respectful participation by the full range of our students, faculty, and concerned community members. As a university, we must not shy away from controversy—but it is also our responsibility to make controversial issues into avenues for open discussion, debate, and learning.
Your commitment to constructive dialogue on a difficult subject is of great value: thank you for it, and I look forward to continuing the discussion.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
San Francisco State University
Subject: Fwd: Concern from Jewish Students
Dear President Wong,
This has been a challenging few weeks for the Jewish community on campus. When you met with Ollie and I last week, he shared photos, screenshots, and personal messages from students of the pain and fear we are feeling right now.
In particular, as Jewish SF State students, we are concerned about academic departments encouraging and promoting illegal discrimination on the basis of viewpoint, religion, or national origin. We wrote to AMED to find out if, as an academic department, it embraces discrimination, as one of its posts suggests. We have heard nothing back to the email below.
You stated that zionists are welcome on campus. We are asking you now to take action that follows words. Please ensure AMED removes its post. We also ask you to communicate widely that the kind of messages of exclusion and discrimination that appeared all over campus are contrary to the values that SF State stands for. We should not be afraid to walk across campus on the basis of our religion, viewpoints or national origin.
We are concerned Jewish students [and their allies] about a posting that AMED recently made on Facebook. A post was shared of AMED's only faculty member, Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, criticizing President Wong for welcoming Zionists to campus. The definition of Zionism that we hold personally is the liberation movement of the Jewish people. We understand that our narratives and histories are different, therefore resulting in different definitions of Zionism. However, by posting Zionists aren’t welcome many, although not all, have internalized it as Jews and supporters of Israel, who may also be supporters of Palestine and an independent state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, are not welcome on SFSU’s campus.
We hope we are all able to recognize each other’s struggles in their different lights in order to help build empathy, respect, and understanding across our communities.
We read AMED's post as taking the position that Zionists should be excluded from SF State's campus. If this is not AMED's departmental position, please let us know its official position, by 2:00 pm Friday, March, 16th, 2017.
Check out what our community is thinking and doing.