U.C. takes stand against BDS advocacy in classroom

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Zionist Organization of America and 10 other Jewish advocacy groups are applauding a letter from a high-ranking University of California official that they say protects the well-being of Jewish students.

The letter to U.C. chancellors from provost Aimée Dorr, executive vice president for academic affairs, affirms that university policy prohibits graduate student instructors from using the classroom to support a cause such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).


Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

In August, the Joint Council of UAW 2865 — a body of 83 elected officers that oversees some 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and others student workers in the U.C. system — issued an open letter outlining the union’s intent to support the BDS movement and to seek a full membership vote.


Shortly thereafter, a dozen Jewish groups, including the campus watchdog group Amcha Initiative, wrote a letter to U.C. President Janet Napolitano expressing concern that pro-BDS members in the student-workers union would bring “their unscholarly, politically-motivated and anti-Semitic propaganda and advocacy into U.C. classrooms, where it certainly does not belong.”

Dorr, on behalf of Napolitano, wrote in her letter to the chancellors that U.C. policies prohibit an academic student employee (ASE) from using his or her instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel.

Dorr noted that in recent weeks “we have received over a hundred emails” expressing concern about ASEs bringing their political advocacy into classrooms. Her letter cited a U.C. Regents policy on course conduct and noted that “the ASE contract requires ASEs to observe university rules and regulations.”

In a separate letter to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of Amcha, Dorr stated that all ASEs will be reminded of the policies and their obligation to adhere to them.

According to an Amcha spokesperson, it marked the first time the U.C. administration has publicly acknowledged such policies and its intention to enforce them.

In their August letter to Napolitano, the Jewish groups stated they “support the right of every member of UAW 2865 to exercise his or her freedom of speech outside of the instructional setting.”

In their reply this week to Dorr’s letters, they wrote, “Your actions will go a long way towards ensuring that all students experience a safe and effective learning environment consistent with the high academic standards of the University of California.”

Other Jewish groups that signed the letter included Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the Brandeis Center, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs and several other groups. — j. staff