Saturday, May 02, 2009
Academic Freedom or Professorial Intimidation
A sociology professor, who is teaching a course titled "Sociology of Globalization," sent out an email to his University of California at Santa Barbara students in which he compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust. His class and his university, as well as several Jewish organizations, are calling for him to make a public apology (incidentally, the professor is a practicing Jew himself). The professor is, predictably, citing academic freedom, while his students are arguing that sending out such information through an email, which included images of Jews in concentration camps juxtaposed against images of Palestinians living in Gaza refugee camps, is akin to intimidation. While I agree with the professor's rational about raising this issue as a point of discussion, I wonder if initiating the discussion through email was the wisest course. The article I've linked to does not mention if the prof regularly started discussions through email or if he was using a class listserv. Presumably students were encouraged to respond to the email as a way of discussing the issue, but there is no discussion of whether or not they actually talked about this in class.