Two faculty members at San Francisco State University, who are outspoken about the Palestinian cause and strongly critical of Israel, filed grievances through their union, alleging mistreatment and censorship by the SFSU.
The grievances, filed last year, are still pending.
Filed by lecturers Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa, the complaints allege that the university – a bastion of radical leftist thought and activism since the 1960s – has not done enough to protect their academic freedom when it attempted to hold controversial public talks in 2020 and 2021. The talks were to feature Leila Khaled, a Palestinian activist who participated in two plane hijackings on behalf of the Palestinian cause in 1969 and 1970.
Zoom, YouTube, Facebook and other tech companies ultimately declined to broadcast the events (YouTube deleted its feed after about 20 minutes). But the grievance alleges the university, and in particular SFSU President Lynn Mahoney, did not do enough to ensure she continued regardless.
A faculty committee determined on October 5 last year that Abdulhadi and Kinukawa had in fact been “aggrieved” by the university, a report said. However, earlier this year, the SFSU rejected that committee’s findings, according to the pro-Palestinian website Mondoweiss, so the complaints are now being adjudicated by a neutral third-party arbitrator.
Billed as “open classroom” events for SFSU students, the talks highlighted acts of female “resistance” and criticized efforts to stifle pro-Palestinian speech, according to online advertisements. They featured other radical revolutionaries, like Laura Whitehorn, a Jewess who spent 14 years in prison for her involvement in the bombing of the United States Capitol Building in the 1980s.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups strongly condemned the digital events due to Khaled’s inclusion. A San Francisco-based JCRC spokesperson called it “inadmissible,” and Rachel Nilson Ralston, executive director of SF Hillel, said SFSU should “make it clear that Khaled’s actions do not represent the values of university” and called on SF State to take action to “ensure the safety and inclusion of all students [on campus]including Jews and Zionists.
Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a communist group formed by pan-Arabist George Habash in the 1960s that vehemently rejects a two-state solution and supports violent means of opposing Israel.
In 1972, militants recruited by the PFLP staged a terrorist attack known as the Lod airport massacre at the current Ben Gurion International Airport. Japanese Red Army militants attacked civilians with machine guns and hand grenades, killing 26 people, including 17 Christians from Puerto Rico, eight Israelis and one Canadian citizen, and wounding 80. The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Legal activists from the Pro-Israel University Engagement Network and the Lawfare Project warned the university that the events they believe violated state and federal laws, including an injunction against providing “material support to terrorists.”
The grievances allege the university sided with pro-Israel activist groups, specifically accusing Mahoney of failing to provide adequate legal and technological support to Abdulhadi and Kinukawa so the talks could proceed.
“The University is bound by contract, law, and AAUP policy to protect academic freedom rather than outsource responsibility to private companies,” an editorial in Mondoweiss summarizing the grievances, signed by the “International Campaign to Defend Professor Rabab Abdulhadi”, read. “Furthermore, universities must maintain structural independence from the whims and demands of partisan lobbying organizations, including Zionist groups like the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), Hillel, and the Lawfare Project.”
The SFSU president, who has championed academic freedom of speech in public statements, said she disagreed with Zoom’s decision to censor the talks.
“I strongly disagree with censorship in any form,” Mahoney wrote in a press release titled “Our Commitment to Academic Freedom” on May 25, 2022, which addressed grievances and coincided with the end of the academic year. ‘school year. She wrote that Zoom and other platforms “refused to host the class due to concerns about violating federal law.”
Mahoney said she encourages faculty “who don’t want to use Zoom to work with Academic Technology to learn about the range of tools available to enhance online learning.”
A spokesperson for SFSU did not respond to follow-up questions.
In 2020, Mahoney responded to the controversy in a J. op-ed, condemning “the glorification of terrorism and the use of violence against unarmed civilians” while upholding the principles of academic freedom and “the ability of faculty to conduct their teaching and scholarship without censorship.”
The California Faculty Association, the union with which the grievances were filed, did not respond to requests for comment.
Grievances are statutory rather than contractual, which means they do not name a specific item in the union’s collective agreement, allowing more flexibility for aggrieved parties. The Sacramento-based CFA is a union of 29,000 members.