The faculty members constituting the Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) consider academic freedom, freedom of expression, and duly constituted academic processes fundamental and essential to the maintenance of scholarly excellence in colleges and universities. The Board, therefore, accepts the findings of the University of California Academic Senate that Professor William Robinson committed no infraction worthy of further charges or sanctions.
Nevertheless, we feel obligated, as faculty colleagues, to point out that in circulating a photo montage that equates photos of Nazis with photos from the recent Gaza war, if that is what they were, Professor Robinson showed little understanding of either the complex issues of the Arab-Israel conflict or the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against the Jews. The images in question do not shed light on either event and are generally acknowledged to have been developed as anti-Israel propaganda and not scholarly material subject for academic analysis.
The material emailed by Professor Robinson to his students is an example of the low standard of analysis being applied by some faculty to events in the Middle East. The circulated material had the negative unintended consequences of diverting a discussion of the very real complex issues of the Arab-Israel conflict. It focused in on the biased propaganda that unfortunately obstructed intelligent analysis and turned the assignment into a question of academic freedom and standards. This negative attention is likely to dominate students’ future recall of what they learned in Professor Robinson’s course, which purports to deal with the “sociology of globalization.” That a tenured professor chose to draw such exploitive analogies and to impose them on his students raises serious questions about his judgment and the value of his teaching. Concern for academic freedom does not justify or erase what is clearly and profoundly flawed pedagogy.
SPME is a not-for-profit, academic organization consisting of over 28,000 academics, researchers and professionals from around the world at nearly 3000 campuses committed to academic freedom, academic excellence and honest and civil discussion of the complex issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Adopted by the SPME Board of Directors June 29, 2009
For Further Information Contact: Edward S. Beck SPME President, 717.576.5038, [email protected]
Peter Haas, SPME Vice President for External Relations [email protected]
Samuel Edelman, Executive Director, SPME [email protected]