Freedom Triumphs at San Francisco State · 25 March 2004

By Lee, 03/26/04

Tatiana Menaker, the former Russian refusenik and student who was facing a 5-year expulsion from San Francisco State University, has been informed she may continue her studies and attendance there in order to graduate the same as any other student. The settlement included two weeks suspension from school that have been considered already served as a part of the time already spent while her case was being negotiated. The "punishment" is more of a face saving move by the University since the settlement basically drops charges against her.

Tatiana was expelled earlier by the University's Judicial Affairs Officer, Donna Cunningham, for allegedly arguing with pro-Palestinian and pro-Marxist leaders on school grounds. In one instance she responded to calls that "Hitler should have finished the job" and "Jews go back to Russia" with an expletive. However, police reports revealed she made no physical or verbal threats to anyone, did not disrupt any school functions, and her case was based more on her politics on the Bay Area campus than anything else. Tatiana had written several articles critical of SFSU for FrontPage Magazine prior to the threats of expulsion. An earlier article detailing her case titled Purge at San Francisco State appeared on Front Page Magazine on February 26.

Students For Academic Freedom and the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in the San Francisco Bay Area rose to Tatiana's defense after she was escorted off campus by three uniformed campus police officers because she dared to raise her voice to Ms. Cunningham. The Judicial Affairs Officer had tried to get Tatiana to sign an agreement to waive her rights and agree to the expulsion. Subsequent readings of the police reports surrounding the case showed a pattern of campus police working with pro-Palestinian groups on campus to silence her. (One of the police reports actually referred to Palestine as being "occupied by Israel," an odd political statement to be found in a police report.) In addition, the campus police had sought to have felony charges brought against Tatiana with the local District Attorney, who instead stated in writing that Tatiana had committed no crimes but was merely speaking her mind.

Ephraim Margolin, Tatiana's attorney, stated, "Everybody won a victory. The State (University) has to explain why they dropped this." Margolin, who handled the case pro bono for the JCRC, also said it marked a watershed for how Jewish students are treated on the Bay Area campus. "The Jewish community was very heavily involved in trying to make sure that the atmosphere at the university does not go back to what it was a year-and-a-half ago." During that time, conditions for Jewish students on campus became so bad that city police were called in to escort them off campus due to threats from pro-Palestinian demonstrators. "The Jewish community pulled together to show we are not only interested in Jewish study on campus, but the life of the students, as well," he said. Margolin, who is a Yale graduate and teaches law at Hastings University, is one of the most distinguished lawyers in America.

As soon as Students For Academic Freedom became involved with the case, a Tatiana Menaker Defense Committee was set up and thousands of e-mails and letters of support from around the world were sent to Tatiana. In addition, many of her supporters sent correspondence to SFSU President Robert Corrigan calling for her immediate reinstatement.

San Francisco State University has been in controversy before with the Jewish community. Last year, pro-Palestinian demonstrators plastered the campus with flyers of a dead baby on the face of a can that read "Palestinian Baby Meat, Packaged Under U.S. and Israeli License." The student union building once had a mural displaying a Star of David dripping with blood and covered in swastikas. The General Union of Palestinian Students, unlike many other campus groups, has a private office on the taxpayer-supported campus. The office has a door adorned with a PLO flag and has been used by the pro-PLO group on campus for 16 years, a courtesy denied most other campus organizations. (Jewish student organizations have been turned down for office space in the same building and elsewhere on campus.)

Some Marxist professors actually greet their students in class by calling them "comrades," and many classes and professors devote time to bashing the United States and extolling the virtues of Marxism over capitalism.

Tatiana has written extensively about life at SFSU and described how the political attitudes and indoctrination found there mimic those of the Soviet Union. Her expulsion for five years was announced the same day her third article critical of SFSU appeared on Front Page Magazine.

Many of her supporters have expressed their delight and consider her vindication proof of the need for an Academic Bill of Rights. With the creation of Students For Academic Freedom, people like Tatiana now have a venue to turn to when abuses in the academic process occur. Combining this with the Academic Bill of Rights, such protection for all students nationwide will be soon available.