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Univ. of Michigan faculty leadership deplores disinvitation of Alice Walker

Israel/Palestine

Another important development in the University of Michigan/Alice Walker imbroglio: the university faculty’s executive body has unanimously adopted a resolution expressing sharp concern about the university’s disinvitation of the scholar from a speaking engagement there, evidently because of her views on Israel.

From AnnArbor.com:

During a meeting Monday, the Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs unanimously approved the following statement:

“SACUA expresses concern about the potential damage done to the reputation of the University of Michigan and its faculty by the appearance of insensitivity to principles of academic freedom stemming from the disinvitation of Alice Walker as speaker for the CEW.”

Karen Staller, a U-M social work professor who chairs the committee, declined to elaborate on the resolution via email.

The story has also been picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

What follows is a commentary by Andrew Dalack, a senior student at the Law School and long-time activist for Palestinian justice. Dalack is on the US Palestinian Community Network executive committee and is a former co-chair of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (“SAFE”).
 
On Monday, the University of Michigan Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) unanimously passed a resolution expressing concerns about the recent “disinvitation” of Alice Walker as the speaker chosen for the upcoming Center for the Education of Women (CEW) 50th Anniversary celebration. According to the faculty resolution, the action’s seeming insensitivity to principles of academic freedom may harm the University’s reputation.  
 
Disinviting Alice Walker has other implications, too. Across the United States, student Palestine solidarity activists are intimidated and sometimes even punished by their own universities for supporting Palestinian self-determination. Last July, the student representative on the University of California Board of Regents was attacked by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in part because she had previously co-sponsored a bill calling for the divestment of university funds from companies with economic ties to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Within the last week, student activists at Florida Atlantic University received sanctions – including probation until graduation and a ban on holding leadership positions in student organizations – for peacefully protesting an event featuring Israeli Colonel Bentzi Gruber.
 
Institutions of higher learning are meant to be bastions of critical thinking. They should create learning environments that encourage students to uncover and celebrate the truth. They should not let special interests – or their donors – set the agenda. At a time when student activists are being targeted for promoting Palestinian self-determination, it is even more important for institutions like the University of Michigan to repudiate unequivocally attempts by those outside the University community to use the University as a platform to censor information or controversial perspectives on issues of great public interest.

Barbara Harvey
About Barbara Harvey

Barbara Harvey has long advocated for human rights with such organizations as the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is active with Jewish Voice for Peace.

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11 Responses

  1. American
    American
    August 22, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Good!

    BTW, forgot to ask…were the Fla U. students perchance of Palestine or Arab or Muslim hertage?
    Occurs to me that more ( if there currently isnt a large number) non ethnic identity akericans (mutts) are needed to make targetng them in their efforts more difficult for the Gestapo.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      August 22, 2013, 6:06 pm

      From their names they were Arab. Their letter to the school paper said some FAU students’ relatives had been killed in the Israeli attack on Gaza.

      • American
        American
        August 22, 2013, 7:33 pm

        @ Jones

        thanks, not surprised. I am guessing that US Arabs and Muslims might be more easily intimidated gven the current climate than a US mutt would be in this sort of thing. I was thinkng about what would I do or most of the people I know would do if their child was ‘sentenced’ to some re education camp for takng part in a protest or cause they believed in.
        I would have been livid as all the people I known would be and probably have gone on the war path legally and other ways against Fla U.

  2. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    August 22, 2013, 3:01 pm

    So will this “resolution expressing sharp concern” turn into a deeper investigation of the who, what, where, when and why there was a disinvitation?

  3. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    August 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

    Thanks to Ms. Harvey, Mr. Dalack, and Mr. Weiss for making a big deal out of this.

    You see the major media coverage that’s possible when you publicly condemn the atrocities committed against Palestinians, as Alice Walker has done in Gaza. See Mondoweiss’s coverage at http://mondoweiss.net/2009/03/alice-walker-in-gaza-bearing-witness-to-a-catastrophe.html, and see the AP coverage of that time, too.

    That mass media coverage can be duplicated this September on U.S. campuses. We have learned from California divestment campaigns over the last year. We now know that once you demand boycott or divestment against the apartheid state of Israel, you will get media coverage.

    Thus you can embolden many campuses to join you. The Israeli army has no tanks on U.S. campuses, and they cannot put a gag on your mouth after you have signed up to speak, in any student government meeting. Your words will go straight into the campus newspaper, and from there into the wider media.

    This is how you free Palestine. It worked for South Africa, didn’t it?

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      August 22, 2013, 8:23 pm

      “The Israeli army has no tanks on U.S. campuses”

      Don’t give them ideas.

  4. Balfour
    Balfour
    August 22, 2013, 4:29 pm

    So who, exactly, are the individuals threatening to withdraw their financial donations to the University of Michigan based upon their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel? I find it hard to believe that the donors names can remain anonymous in this era. As M.J. Rosenberg often says, “A lobby is like a night flower, they thrive in the dark and die in the light.”

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      August 22, 2013, 7:25 pm

      Balfour,

      It’s those “Christian Zionists” at it again, of course.

      See the article by Spencer Ackerman, editor for the news service “The Guardian US”, who lays it all out for you:
      http://www.attackerman.com/the-awful-geopolitical-viability-of-an-undemocratic-israel

      You may be asking yourself what Christian Zionists could have to do with a left-wing women’s center. Abortion is a major women’s issue conservatives care a lot about. Bingo.

      Those Christian Zionist donors must be lying low since there is no real evidence for this theory, and you can bet the farm there will be few if any of them at the women’s center’s conference this year.

    • August 23, 2013, 10:36 am

      That wasn’t Rosenberg, he was quoting someone, one of the AIPAC guys indicted then let go.

  5. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    August 22, 2013, 4:54 pm

    I think that this is extremely encouraging. Injustice will not triumph for ever. Mind you, I say this against the background of a British Government ramp against Syria, so awful that chemical weapons have allegedly been used! But when it comes to the manifest, not so much alleged but obvious, massacre of around 1,000 in Egypt we just don’t know what to say.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      August 22, 2013, 5:41 pm

      Good old Tories. Wouldn’t do to be consistent.
      The UK doesn’t have the money to send any soldiers to Syria, by the looks of things.

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