Truth-out: “Academic Freedom Under Attack” by David Shorter

Higher education’s contribution to society rests upon the ability of educators to wrestle with challenging topics, no matter how complex or difficult to discuss. Such is the case with food safety, income inequality, institutionalized racism and a wide range of matters pertaining to public policy, just to name a few. Universities have historically expected the educators themselves to know how best to foster critical thinking about these issues in their classroom; hence we have come in the US to recognize the importance of academic freedom. Yet a benchmark study has recently shown that organizations have been aggressively attempting to extinguish any criticisms of Israel in US academic institutions. And on October 26, the Regents of the University of California will meet to discuss adopting a formal “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” that many allege will equate any criticisms of Israel to anti-Semitism.

I consider such matters deeply personal since I have was accused of anti-Semitism and my employer, the University of California, decided to appease the accusers at the expense of academic freedom. In 2012, I taught a course on Indigenous Worldviews, an area of research in which I am well published. I used a course website (CCLE) provided to professors for course materials. That course covered indigenous uses of media around the globe to assert their claims of sovereignty. My course website contained pages of source materials and URLs for struggles on multiple continents and includes United Nations documentation (2000; 2009) on Palestinian people as “indigenous.”

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