Letter from Students for Academic Freedom to Berkeley Vice Chancellor · 17 February 2004

Filed under: UC Berkeley

February 17, 2004

Dr. John Cummins
Vice Chancellor
University of California at Berkeley

Dear Dr. Cummins,

I am the national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, an organization dedicated to promoting academic freedom, intellectual diversity, and civility in scholarly discourse at American universities. We currently have chapters on over 120 campuses nationwide, including one at UC-Berkeley.

I write to protest the disgraceful spectacle that occurred last Tuesday, February 10, when renowned Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes attempted to deliver a speech at Berkeley, but was shouted-down and obstructed by students belonging to the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine who willfully disregarded signs posted outside the lecture hall warning that no banners, signs, shouting or violence would be allowed during the speech.

These students sat in a block and disrupted the speech, nearly drowning out the speaker at several points with organized chanting and jeering of derogatory terms and slogans, and forcing campus police to further disrupt the proceedings by ejecting them. Such was the volume of their disruption that classes in adjacent buildings were disturbed by the noise. For more information on this incident, please see the attached piece from ChronWatch.com, also available at http://chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=5925.

It is an outrage that at the home of the campus free speech movement, speakers must be accompanied by phalanxes of armed officers and private security teams to ensure their safety. If UC-Berkeley is to maintain an environment conducive to academic discourse, these breaches of free speech policy by registered student organizations must not be tolerated.

This is not the first time that these students have openly disobeyed university rules. In the spring of 2002, Students for Justice in Palestine was suspended as an official campus group after they organized a hostile takeover of Wheeler Hall, only to be reinstated one month later.

Since these groups have already been put on notice that their actions violate campus rules and are inimical to the very spirit of the educational experience, it is puzzling to us that the University of California should continue to recognize these as official student groups and allow them to draw funds from student fees. We like an explanation from you as to why the university has not taken action against these delinquent groups. If action is contemplated we would like to be informed of its nature.

We further would like to propose the Academic Bill of Rights (text is available on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org) for your consideration. This is bill is being submitted to the California State Legislature, and is being introduced as a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jack Kingston. One of its provisions is a policy of non-tolerance for individuals and groups that obstruct campus speakers.

I look forward to hearing from you in respect to these matters.

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom