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UC-Berkeley restores course that Jewish groups call anti-Semitic, with ‘cosmetic’ changes

Dean says it was ‘revised’ without elaborating

University of California-Berkeley students can once again “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine,” which some see as code for the elimination of Israel.

Less than a week after the administration suspended “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” following allegations that it was little more than political propaganda against Israel, the school has reinstated the student-facilitated course, part of its Democratic Education at Cal (DeCal) program.

In a Monday letter to social-science department chairs and Academic Senate officials, Executive Dean Carla Hesse of the College of Letters and Science said it was “my understanding” that the course description and syllabus had been revised after her meeting with relevant faculty.

MORE: ‘Anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism’ not welcome at UC, regents say

Archived versions of both documents saved to the Internet Archive Sept. 13 – the same day Jewish groups wrote to UC-Berkeley to complain about the course – are identical to the live versions reviewed by The College Fix Monday night, however.

Palestine Legal, a legal advocacy group that represents the student facilitator of the course, told The Fix that the only changes to the syllabus were “cosmetic” – nothing affecting its content.

Did not request ‘revisions,’ only ‘clarifications’

Hesse’s Monday letter appears to have been rushed. It twice misstates the name of the course and is littered with typographical errors.

The dean said she suspended the course Sept. 13 “because it became apparent that neither the Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, nor I had been made aware formally of this DeCal class offering, nor seen the syllabus.”

She then met with Chair Shari Huhndorf, faculty sponsor Hatem Bazian and facilitator Paul Hadweh, asking them to “address the following concerns”:

whether a course solely about Palestine is “within the scope” of the ethnic studies department, as required by rules for student-facilitated courses

whether it has a “particular political agenda” structured to “limit open inquiry,” or potentially violates the UC regents’ policy on course content and “principles against intolerance

whether its stated objective to “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine” could violate the course-content policy by “crossing over the line from teaching to political advocacy and organizing”

MORE: UC regents slam proposed ‘principles against intolerance’

Hesse said she “did not request or require any revision” to the course content, but simply wanted “clarifications.” She did not explain how the chair, sponsor and facilitator assuaged her concerns, saying only that they

determined that revisions of the course in light of these concerns were necessary and appropriate. It is my understanding that they have posted a revised version of the course description and syllabus.

The only difference between the live versions and the Sept. 13 archived versions, as far as The Fix could tell, is the addition of specific class dates in the live syllabus. (See archived syllabus below)

University of California-Berkeley syllabus for “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis” by The College Fix on Scribd

Neither Hesse nor her assistant responded to Fix queries Monday.

Apology demanded

Palestine Legal did not mention any changes to the course description or syllabus in its statement Monday, which followed a Friday letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks accusing the school of violating academic freedom and Hadweh’s First Amendment rights.

Hadweh said in the statement he was waiting for an “apology” from Dirks and Hesse:

The university threw me under the bus, and publicly blamed me, without ever even contacting me. It seems that because I’m Palestinian studying Palestine, I’m guilty until proven innocent. To defend the course, we had to mobilize an international outcry of scholars and students to stand up for academic freedom. This never should have happened.

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Staff attorney Liz Jackson said Hadweh spent eight months “going through all the recommended and mandated procedures to facilitate a course,” and that students and scholars are “facing a coordinated attack on the right to speak and study freely about Palestine-Israel.”

Jackson accused UC-Berkeley of applying “extra scrutiny” to the class:

The university does not censor Israeli studies classes because they have a “political agenda” or “ignore history,” although that case can also be made.

Jackson told The Fix in an email Monday that the revised syllabus has “a few cosmetic changes” – none of which is “substantive” – to “clarify that the course is about exploring questions.” She did not send the revised syllabus before publication.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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