An anonymous letter of July 16 [a reader's online comment printed in July 16 issue, click here for original] takes sharp issue with the opinions of UCSB Professor William Robinson regarding his comparison of Gaza to World War II's Warsaw, calling his comparison "malicious and deliberate slander," and regretting the failure of the university to "discipline" him.
Perhaps understandably, the mystery writer does not mention any of the following:
(1) Professor Robinson's written and (forwarded) photographic comparisons are part of an academic's usual and normal freedom to express an opinion as long as his students are free to disagree (they are);
(2) No student has the right not to be presented with opinions he finds objectionable;
(3) The attempt to "discipline" Professor Robinson was orchestrated by the Anti-Defamation League, partly in cooperation with university officials who had the responsibility to evaluate the charges against Robinson, but did not reveal the ADL connection;
(4) 100 UCSB professors and 20 department heads signed letters, and many UCSB students organized via a web site, all objecting to the charges against Robinson as an attack on academic freedom;
(5) UCSB Academic Senate Charges Officer Martin Sharlemann avoided the usual first step in such proceedings, i.e. having the two complaining students contact the Dean or Department Head to see if an informal resolution could be obtained. He also: violated the Faculty Code of Conduct by demanding Professor Robinson answer a set of general charges before the required convening of an Ad Hoc committee to authorize such action; refused repeated requests from Robinson to make these general charges - copied from the Faculty Code of Conduct - specific; then later, when he did make them specific, refused the professor's attempt to answer them, saying Robinson had had his "chance," thereby eliminating the professor's right to participate in the process in any meaningful way; violated the Faculty Code of Conduct by deleting one of the students' charges that could never have been sustained (antisemitism) and adding a charge ("coercion of conscience") the students did not make, thus acting as an agent for the complainants; and although having no authority to "investigate" anything, spied on distributed emails of the Sociology Department (to which Professor Robinson belongs) by subscribing to one of the departments listservs without revealing his own position as the charges officer.
(6) Professor Aaron Ettenberg, given a place on the Charges Advisory Committee which was convened to evaluate the complaints, violated the confidentiality provision of the Faculty Code of Conduct by discussing the matter with a person not authorized to participate, a Rabbi Gross-Schaefer, who then wrote letters to the Independent and the News-Press attacking Robinson; violated the conflict-of-interest provision of the Faculty Code of Conduct by not revealing his previous membership in Hillel, to which the ADL belonged.
Properly, the UCSB Academic Senate unanimously dismissed the students' frivolous complaints. Properly, it has voted to investigate possible improprieties by some of its members who were active in this matter.
In my opinion, shame accrues to the corrupt behavior of Professors Sharlemann and Ettenberg; to the Anti-Defamation League, once devoted to vigorous defense of persecuted persons, now devoted to scurrilous smear-mongering and attempts to silence those (especially elected officials and teachers) who oppose the despotic policies of the state of Israel; and to University of California Chancellor Henry Yang, whose failure immediately to provide Professor Robinson with an apology reeks of cowardice. William Smithers