Berkeley forced to cancel course advocating ‘decolonized Palestine’

The University of California, Berkeley was forced to cancel a course on decolonizing Palestine after conceding that it violated policies against “political indoctrination” in the classroom.

The one-credit course explicitly stated that it would “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine,” even requiring students to present “decolonial alternatives to the current situation,” which some have taken as a clear indication of the course’s politically biased nature.

Indeed, the UC Berkeley Board of Regents’ policy on course content expressly prohibits any use of the classroom for “political indoctrination” or “the advance of partisan interest” as “misuse of the university as an institution.”

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Recently, the AMCHA Initiative, along with several other advocacy groups, called on UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to take “immediate steps to overhaul the course review process” that allowed such a course to be approved.

“Even more troubling than the course’s clear attempts to promote a partisan interest and indoctrinate students is the fact that ‘Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis’ was able to successfully pass through a review process overseen by an administrative staff and members of the UCB academic senate,” the group wrote in its letter to Chancellor Dirks, noting that the “egregious anti-Zionist bias of the syllabus, along with publicly available information about the extreme political bias and activism of the course instructor and faculty advisor, should have raised many red flags.”

The student who intended to instruct the course is an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the faculty advisor to the course was set to be a “well-known anti-Zionist activist” who cofounded SJP and supports the academic boycott of Israel, the letter goes on to explain.

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The syllabus for the course provides a detailed reading list for interested students, which AMCHA and its allies have described as having a “blatantly anti-Israel bias” containing “language that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel.”

Commenting on the course syllabus, AMCHA’s director, Tammi Rossman Benjamin, argued that it “reveals that the course’s objectives, reading materials, and guest speakers are uniformly politically motivated,” saying that such content meets “our government’s criteria for anti-Semitism.”

Chancellor Dirks, who recently announced his resignation after allegations that he abused public funds, announced Tuesday that he would be cancelling the course after finding that the “facilitator for the course in question did not comply with the policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses.”

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“As a result, the proposed course did not receive a sufficient degree of scrutiny to ensure that the syllabus met Berkeley’s academic standards before it was opened for enrollment to students,” he added. “For that reason, approval for the course has been suspended pending completion of the mandated review and approval process.”

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