10 May '15..
Sunday’s New York Times has a story on the campus boycott Israel movement. Toward the end, it alludes to a controversy at the University of California, Riverside. I quote the passage in full:
The disputes often spill into the academic realm. Jewish groups are urging the University of California, Riverside, to shut down a student-taught seminar called “Palestinian Voices.” They argue that the course, which is sponsored by an outspoken faculty supporter of the B.D.S. campaign and includes sessions on “Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid,” amounts to indoctrination.
Although one can understand why the reporters chose not to write more about the Riverside story, the story is worthy of further consideration. First, the faculty “sponsor” is not merely an “outspoken faculty supporter of the B.D.S. campaign.” David Lloyd, an English professor is part of the “Organizing Collective” (really?) of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He may be just an English professor. But fortunately, the person he is sponsoring to teach the course is better qualified to teach an informative and rigorous course touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Oh wait. Tina Matar, who will be teaching the one credit course, is actually an undergraduate, also in the English department. She is also president of Riverside’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which has spearheaded the campus boycott Israel movement nationally. Riverside has passed a divestment resolution, targeting companies alleged to profit from Israel’s activities in the West Bank. More recently, it has persuaded Riverside to stop using Sabra hummus in its dining halls. But let’s be fair. Even a fervent undergraduate partisan might somehow manage to teach a rigorous course, as worthy of one measly credit as others (undergraduate teaching is a thing at Riverside).
But uh oh. The syllabus is available online. Had the Times reporters looked at it, they would have noticed that the course does not just include “sessions” on settler colonialism and apartheid. In fact, Israel as a leading example of settler colonialism and apartheid is the very subject of the class. The course is called Palestine and Israel: Settler Colonialism and Apartheid. Yet what’s in a title?
But there’s also the remarkable course description, which I quote in part: “We will be discussing the side of the conflict that you don’t hear on mainstream media. The stories of the Palestinian people and their struggles don’t get mentioned.” In other words, the very premise of the course is a partisan fabrication—that there has been a silence concerning—rather than incessant attention to–the Palestinian side of the story of the conflict. One can only imagine if the president of the young Republicans were slated to teach a course on the Democratic-Republican conflict, entitled: “Democrats and Republicans: The Snotty Socialist Sellout,” whose descriptions included criticisms of the mainstream media. Let’s imagine—we’ll need to because I doubt very much that any such figure exists at Riverside–that the faculty sponsor is a former Republican strategist. My guess is that a faculty review committee would not have approved such a course.
But this other course was so approved. UC Riverside’s academic standards are in the best of hands.