Kesler in City Journal: Hypocritical CalState OKs Anti-Semitism

A California State University, Northridge, economics professor maintains a website devoted to promoting sex-tourism in Thailand. The loud denunciations on campus pressured him to take the off-campus website down. Meanwhile, a vile anti-Semitic website is maintained by a CalState, Northridge. math professor, using the university’s own server, and contrary to university regulations it is OKd as “free speech” by the university’s president, retiring this month.
The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal carries my “Cal State’s Chutzpah,” labeling it a “hypocritical university.” This is an update on my post December 6, “Looking Away From Hate At California State University.”
The Chancellor of the California State University system, Charles Reed, fails to weigh in on the side of decency or academic standards or rules, but appoints as interim president the CSUN Provost who signed the math professor’s November letter to the Chancellor that study abroad should not be allowed in Israel. The letter levies charges against Israel (debunked by the reply from Scholars for Peace in the Middle East) not applied to any other democratic nation. This is anti-Semitism, according to the European Union’s Working Definition of anti-Semitism.
At CalState’s sister public university system, University of California, Mark Yudof, president of the University of California system, also pussy-foots around confronting the rife anti-Semitism at U of C campuses. His evasions are discussed here at Maggie’s Farm and in a shorter version at New Criterion.
These are both taxpayer-supported public university systems. Neither wants to do the legal or decent thing in fear of the pro-Palestinian/leftist faculty members who wield predominant power on campuses. Such callow anti-Semitism would be condemned if at a private company, and the malefactors terminated. Continued exposure is necessary if our public universities are to meet standards applicable elsewhere throughout America.
My City Journal article is below the fold. But, please go to City Journal’s “CalState’s Chutzpah” to read it, to demonstrate that Maggie’s Farmers are smarter and more decent than California’s irresponsible and hypocritical public university administrators.
BTW: Keep your eye on the City Journal website for the Winter edition, out soon. Sure to be jam packed with erudite and informative goodies, as always. Needless to say, I’m grateful to its editors for seeing the importance of the scandalous behavior of California’s top public college administrators, and honored to be included among City Journal’s contributors.

Bruce Kesler
Cal State’s Chutzpah
A hypocritical university goes silent while a math professor spouts anti-Israeli politics.
29 December 2011

Spend any time on a university campus, and the official culture will become obvious in short order. Bigotry and prejudice against blacks, gays, or women simply isn’t tolerated. Even a hint of racism or sexism is met with quick and decisive punishment. But anti-Israel rants on California’s public-college campuses seem to be tolerated, politely ignored, or even tacitly condoned by the powers that be.
Consider the case of David Klein, a math professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Klein maintains a page on the university’s web server having nothing to do with mathematical physics, teacher education, or standardized testing, his main areas of research. Rather, the page is devoted to the evils of the state of Israel. Students and other members of the university can learn that “Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time” and that the Jewish state engages in “ethnic cleansing.” Visitors can discover, furthermore, that the answer to the question “Aren’t Palestinians equally responsible for the violence?” is an emphatic “No.” Klein provides links to an assortment of Israel haters and, of course, calls for a boycott of Israeli products and U.S. companies that do business with Israel.
It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen to a professor who used the university’s website to post content opposed, say, to illegal immigration or legal abortion, especially if the subject was outside his academic field. Administrators would demand that the pages disappear, and they’d cite the university’s policies, chapter and verse. We know university administrators would loudly condemn a professor who maintained a website off campus that had a “deleterious effect on the university’s reputation.” That’s what happened in 2010, when CSUN erupted in outrage over economics professor Kenneth Ng’s personal site,—which, his critics claimed, promoted illegal sex tourism in Thailand. Both the Gender and Women’s Studies Department and the Asian-American Studies Department publicly denounced Ng, and several students and faculty demanded that he take the site down or lose his job. But while university officials blasted the site, they stopped short of forcing Ng to take it down. Ng removed the site anyway, after weeks of public pressure. “I think he realized he’s putting the university in an awkward position,” CSUN provost Harold Hellenbrand told the campus newspaper, adding, “We expect that [faculty] act at a higher level than their profession requires.”
Yet no one within the CSUN community has condemned Klein, and his webpage remains active—though it clearly violates university policies, which state that “use of computers, networks, and computing facilities for activities other than academic purposes or University business is not permitted.” The university also prohibits associating its name with boycotts and other politically motivated activity. CSUN further retains the right to remove “any defamatory, offensive, infringing, or illegal materials” from its website at any time.
A recent administrative review, however, cleared Klein of any violations. “The University does uphold and preserve the principles of academic freedom—and Professor Klein’s right to express his views,” CSUN president Jolene Koester said in a statement. “Our review affirmed that this right extends to the use of an individual’s web pages, as part of the University website, as a vehicle for expression.” Koester apparently is uninterested in discussing the matter further. UC Santa Cruz language lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who heads the AMCHA Initiative, an organization to counteract anti-Semitism on college campuses, challenged the president in a November 22 e-mail. “If you choose not to remove Professor Klein’s anti-Semitic material from the CSUN website,” Rossman-Benjamin wrote, “we will presume that it is because the University finds nothing ‘defamatory, offensive, infringing, or illegal’ about these webpages, and is unconcerned with the effects they may have on CSUN students, parents, community members, and taxpayers.” Koester’s e-mailed reply: “Too bad.” After Rossman-Benjamin forwarded Koester’s reply to top Cal State officials and several state politicians with oversight authority, Koester explained lamely that she’d meant to send the e-mail to “university staff” and that “the comment ‘too bad’ was meant to express to internal staff regret about the controversy and the distress it has caused.”
Koester is retiring this year, but it’s unlikely that the administrators who remain after she’s gone will be of much help. Hellenbrand, who will take over as interim president, cosigned a November open letter from Klein to Cal State University Chancellor Charles Reed, arguing that the university should not permit study abroad in Israel. All but four of the 127 signatories on Klein’s letter are from CSUN. (The university will continue the program.)
Contrary to Koester’s claims, the David Klein matter has nothing to do with academic freedom and everything to do with official hypocrisy. A professor has the right to speak on his own behalf, but not to use a public university’s resources to smear Israel as a murderous oppressor. In the private sector, such conduct would be grounds for censure or termination. A university in the public trust should be held to a standard at least as high.
Bruce Kesler blogs at Maggie’s Farm and lives in Encinitas, California.

Comments are closed.