This Spring, the SPME leadership has seen a rise in calls from SPME network participants to “do something” about the increased presence of aggressive anti-Israelism, anti-Semitism, hate speech and incitement on college campuses.
From all accounts by organizations that monitor such things, it appears there is a significant increase number of incidents on increasingly more campuses, large and small. However most experts agree that such actions would have occurred even if Israel had not retaliated against the firing of over 6000 missles from Gaza. From Toronto to Australia and from California to London, from small religious-based and private colleges to large secular state and private universities, the Gaza action has been invoked to justify campaigns for boycott, divestment and discrimination against Israel, Israeli academics and Israeli academic institutions.
The fact of the matter is that organizations such as the Palestinian Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, originating in the UK and Europe went global this year, spawning the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Groups such as Israel Awareness Week, the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and International Solidarity Movement, Students for Peace and Justice, and other anti-Israel groups began working together to target campuses they thought would be vulnerable and receptive for student, community, and even faculty programming.
Make no mistake, the events that erupted this year on campus have been as a result of carefully planned and sustained efforts by enemies of Israel thinking and believing there is little or no faculty or student resistance.
Many pro-Israel groups on campus have failed to recognize the systemmatic nature of the formation and disinformation of this campaign. SPME, with its global network has been intimately familiar with it, successfully building a faculty network to take it on. However, while more and more faculty have been increasingly vocal about issues of academic anti-Israelism expressed in academic publications and calls for boycotts of and divestment from Israel academics and academic institutions, many have been silent on their campuses when it comes to student activities when these events take place, thinking student organization can and will do something.
On campus, faculty have been reluctant to speak up for academic integrity and accountability, thereby abrogating their responsibility to insure civil and learned discourse on their own campus, with some notible exceptions that we report in the SPME Faculty Forum.
Our response to when our colleagues and the community ask SPME to “do something!” is that SPME is only as strong as the faculty on each campus can make it. The responsibility to “do something! lies upon us as individuals and as networked chapter members in SPME taking stances within our institutions.
We are are seeing now at over 40 campuses, where faculty are forming SPME chapters and even networking with other chapters in larger systems, that the important and necessary faculty demands are being made within academic internal structures that standards be met in this discourse, civility and both legal and campus codes be maintained. More faculty are needed to form SPME chapters to counter these events and hold university community participants accountable. It will only be through forming these academic chapters where faculty influence be taken seriously and have impact. Below is a guide for faculty members for faculty appropriate, campus based action which is based on faculty experiences in addressing these issues and from SPME President-Emeritus’s Ed Beck’s 41 years experience as a faculty member and student personnel administrator and professional at CUNY, NYU, Rutgers, Penn State and other institutions. Wth these in mind, however, ultimately you are responsible for restoring civility to your campus. You can succeed as we are seeing on some campuses if you use these guideline.
1) You are an important and powerful stakeholder in your academic community endowed with certain inalienable rights and obligations. Among these are the right to:
a) demand rigor and compliance with university codes and standards, and
b) initiate and demand sanctions when those codes are violated.
These standards apply to everyone on campus, and you can and must demand them of others, whether they be colleagues, students, staff or guests. You and your colleagues can play an important role in upholding them; but only if you are willing to do so. By insisting that these codes and standards be upheld, you are actually protecting academic freedom and academic integrity. By not standing up for these codes and standards you are abrogating your responsibility to insure excellence and giving passive acceptance to substandard and uncivil discourse on campus.
2)When a campus event that appears to be designed to spread propaganda, incitement, intimidation and discrimination is announced, learn who is sponsoring it. Is it a student event? Is it an individual faculty member’s event? Is it a community event on campus? Is it a university event? Is it a departmental event? University bylaws and rules may vary depending on who is the sponsor. With what information you have, you may be able to call for a cancellation of the event or for having it taken off-campus. Neither academic freedom, nor the First Amendment require the uiversity to allow a speaker without academic portfolio or credentials to spread hate and incitement on campus. If this has been documented at other places, you are well within your rights to escalate it within your campus structures.
3) Find and learn the appropriate codes governing student, faculty and guest discourse and behavior on campus. Work with the appropriate administrator(s) and groups to insure these codes are being upheld, (Dean of Students, Student Affairs Director, Department /Program Chair, Dean of Faculty or Academic Affairs, Dean of the College, appropriate Vice President, President, Provost and/Chancellor and of course, your Faculty Senate or equivalent) to ensure adherence to the codes, identification of infractions and implementation of sanctions.
4) Monitor event and accurately record fabrications and falsifications, incitement, intimidation, hate speach and other potential violations of discourse and conduct codes on campus. Let sponsors know that violations will be reported and sanctions may well be proposed, if appropriate. If you attend a presentation where a speaker or member of the audience is attacked or verbally abused, record it and do not let it pass. Bring a video camera if you can and use it.
5) Write something for the campus newpaper, the community press and blogs that people on your campus read as well as the campus radio station and even Youtube.com In articles, op-eds or letters stick to issues and events with dispassionate accuracy, avoiding ad hominems and the term anti-semitism. Presenting your version of what happend or is happening can have an enormous influence on students, colleagues and administrators. The anti-Israel side will not be shy about presenting its version. But if you and your colleagues put your names on statements in the campus press, that version will not go unchallenged. In response to charges that the IDF bombed a hospital or mosque occupied by only civilians, show proof with picture from YouTube that the targeted sites were used as military staging areas behind civiliam human shields, in violation of the Geneva convention, constituting the real war crime.
6)Network with other faculty members on your campus and with colleagues from other campuses and universities (as is happening now in California). SPME has over 44, 000 names and address of faculty who have been involved in one SPME action or another and can easily help you find others on your campus so you are not alone to connect to possibly form a chapter or network. We have found that when a group of faculty address issues as a group, they are listened to by the campus administrators and communities. You don’t have to do this alone.
SPME was formed to engage, educate and empower our colleagues not only to work as individuals, but as collective networks to deal with just these issues. In many cases we have provided advice and support for faculty who want to either work publicly or behind the scenes. Our mission is not discredit academic institutions as we are faculty and have to work and live there too. Our goal, however is to address those within the academy and those trying to permeate the academy by invoking democracy and academic freedom while at the same time undermining them. By the same token, if you feel your campus’ situation calls for an international academic response, we can mobilize it as we have done in Europe, the UK, Canada and the United States with colleagues from around the world. Sometimes an institution needs to know the entire academic world is watching as peer review is a powerfully persuasive.
A very famous head of a major American pro-Israel advocacy organization once announced in front of donors, students and faculty members at a major state university with over 600 in attendance, that “faculty were useless” in the struggle to support Israel. But SPME’s evidence tells a much different story. Over 44,000 colleagues have spoken up on behalf of Israel in terms of speaking out against discrimination, boycotts and divestment against Israel and for academic freedom and excellence, by lending their names. 27,000 remain in the network, but less than 400 have stood up to support the network. If each faculty member who reads this article gave just $50.00, SPME would be able to network more faculty members, ensure more sustainable academic projects to counter incitement against Israel and have the legal, academic and other resources necessary to protect civil discourse on our campus.
You are much more powerful you realize. You, unlike administrators and staff, have the expertise. You, unlike students, are there for the long haul. As an academic, networking with other academics, you can set or change the tone of discourse on your campus.
As a subscriber and contributor to SPME, you can send a message of solidarity to faculty members and students at other campuses under siege. You can help us to help you make a difference. Please do so by clicking here.
The author would like to acknowledge the thoughts of Judith Jacobson, Columbia University; Max Grossman, San Jose State University; Daniela Rotin,University of Toronto; and several other faculty members who preferred to remain anonymous.