CFP: Censoring Palestine at the University: Free Speech and Academic Freedom at a Crossroads

Saturday, Dec 20, 2014 - Saturday, Dec 20, 2014 | 11:45 pm

The Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender, University of California at Berkeley presents:
CONFERENCE DATE: March 6th, 2015 (One day Conference)
ABSTRACTS DUE: December 20th, 2014
This international and interdisciplinary conference willaddress recent political developments in the academy thatpoints to increasing administrative moves directed atcensoring Palestine as a subject for intellectual engagementand organizing efforts. The degree and intensity of censorshiphas taken many forms, most recently with several high profilecases:
  • the rescinding and subsequent firing of AssociateProfessor Steven Salaita at The University of Illinois,Urbana-Champaign;
  • the unwarranted investigation of faculty members suchas Professors Rabab Abdulhadi at San Francisco StateUniversity for constitutionally protected activities of freespeech about the state and people of Palestine;
  • the unfair and systematic targeting of SJP, MSA and Arabstudent organizations for sponsoring and organizingevents for Palestinian awareness;
  • promoting and funding campus groups and activities thatonly approach Palestine with an apolitical agenda whileisolating, prosecuting and criminalizing those operating independently, critical of Israel, opt not to engage inuniversity crafted dialogues or supporting BDS; and,
  • other instances that includes the official withdrawal ofuniversity sponsorships for academic conferences;reduced funding or the cancellation of events; additionalrequirements beyond the normal process that involvesadministrative evaluations, policy reminders, speakerapprovals, and security precautions.
In addition to this extraordinary institutional intervention,external organizations, on more than one occasion, have beenallowed to influence, dictate, and prescribe the terms offreedom of speech through codes of civility that severely undermines the standing of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims asan educational topic and a political campaign. The assault onfree speech and academic freedom has also come disguised ascivil rights complaints under Title VI directed at Department ofEducation funding. Lawsuits targeting the university for thespecific purpose of censoring Palestine have already created achilling effect on college campuses despite federal JudgeRichard Seeborg dismissing such claims in Felber v. Yudofheld stating “[a] very substantial portion of the conduct to which[the complainants] object [i.e., speech critical of Israel]represents pure political speech and expressive conduct, in apublic setting, regarding matters of public concern, which isentitled to special protection under the First Amendment.”
This conference seeks papers that analyze the academy’s role in the institutional censorship of Palestine and the methodsdeployed to achieve this outcome. More broadly, howcensoring Palestine at the university is linked to ongoingefforts in the erosion of free speech and academic freedom dueto the corporatization and militarization of institutions ofhigher learning is encouraged. As the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement takes hold on college campuses acrossthe United States and Europe, how the academy responds by establishing “civility codes” directly marginalizes andcriminalizes participants who happens to be not only faculty,students and staff members of an intellectual, social, andpolitical community, but also members exercising their rightto free speech.
Please send a 300-word abstract in response to one or more of the issues highlighted above is suggested, and a short 100 words biography to the attention of Dr. Hatem Bazian:
The abstracts are due: DECEMBER 20th, 2014

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