College is a place for students to expand their intellectual boundaries, preparing them to take their place in the world. Giving them space to create and teach their own courses is a marvelous way to encourage that growth, and we give U.C. Berkeley credit for creating such a framework in its DeCal program.
But a course that has as its clear aim the cultivation of hostility, that ignores the basic academic tenet of exploring all sides of an issue — such a course has no place at a proper university, in particular a public university supported by tax dollars.
We therefore applaud U.C. Berkeley’s decision this week to cancel “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis.” This student-designed offering violated several tenets of the Regents Policy on Course Content, among them forbidding courses to be used “as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest” or “political indoctrination.” A review of the proposed syllabus showed that all course readings were vociferously anti-Israel. Such readings would not be objectionable if opposing viewpoints were also offered, but they were not — at least, according to the syllabus.
As reported in our story this week, among the scheduled guest speakers was Hatem Bazian, the course’s faculty sponsor and a stridently anti-Zionist professor. Again, his presentation could be instructive if matched up against one that explores a different approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it wasn’t.
Most egregiously, the final project in the course required students to have “researched, formulated and presented decolonial alternatives to the current situation.” How can this be understood other than a directive to design a plan for the deconstruction or, more accurately, destruction of the sovereign State of Israel?
More than 40 Jewish and academic organizations signed a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks this week, urging his review. On Sept. 13, the administration canceled the course, determining that it had not received “a sufficient degree of scrutiny” and noting concern “about offering any course, even a student-run course, which espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing.”
College campuses should be safe forums for expression of all viewpoints, even those some may find offensive. But this particular course not only would have done a disservice to the notion of intellectual inquiry, it also reeked of anti-Semitism, something the U.C. Board of Regents has made clear is as unacceptable as racism and homophobia. This course and its ilk have no place at Cal.