Serious concerns about UC Berkeley BDS event Tuesday Oct. 26

Below is a letter that Leila Beckwith, Roberta Seid, and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin sent to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau describing  concerns about an upcoming event promoting an academic boycott of Israel, which is being co-sponsored by an official academic unit at the university.  They are urging Chancellor Birgeneau to ensure that official university sponsorship of this event is withdrawn and to publicly condemn the BDS campaign on his campus.


University of California at Berkeley
200 California Hall #1500
Berkeley, CA  94720-1500

Dear Chancellor Birgeneau:

As faculty of the University of California, we are very concerned that an authorized unit of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley is an official co-sponsor of an event whose focus we believe will be to promote a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions as well as American corporations.  This event will not be an academic inquiry; it will not advance scholarship.

The Muslim Identities and Cultures Working Group of The Townsend Center for the Humanities, situated administratively at the University of California at Berkeley within the College of Letters and Sciences, is co-sponsoring an event on October 26 entitled, “What Can American Academia Do to Realize Justice for Palestinians”   ( This event is organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine, whose stated mission is to promote boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel  (BDS) (

The event will have two speakers:  Lisa Taraki, Associate Professor at Bir Zeit University and co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (, and Hatem Bazian, a Lecturer at UC Berkeley, endorser of the Israel Divestment Campaign (, and signatory of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (  The latter organization is also a co-sponsor of the event, as is the Middle East Children’s Alliance, an organization that actively promotes the BDS campaign against Israel (
The co-sponsorship of this event by a Working Group of the Townsend Center for the Humanities establishes an official association of the University of California at Berkeley with the promotion of a boycott against Israel.  We believe this is morally reprehensible, a violation of the mission of the university, and a discredit to your administration, for the following reasons:

  • The BDS  movement is antisemitic according to the Working Definition of Antisemitism of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia  as adopted by the U.S. State Department.  Some of the movement’s leaders have openly stated that the purpose of their campaign is nothing less than the elimination of the Jewish State, and BDS events  routinely exhibit disturbing forms of  antisemitic  imagery and discourse. (
  • The BDS campaign contributes to a hostile environment for Jewish students on your campus.
  • Promoting an extension of the Arab boycott against Israel is a violation of U.S. law.
We therefore urge you to:
  • sever  the university’s involvement with this event by ensuring that the Townsend Center withdraws its co-sponsorship;
  • publicly inform the UCB community of your action and the reasons for it;
  • issue a public condemnation of the BDS campaign on your campus.

We respectfully request a response.




Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus, UCLA

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Lecturer, UCSC

Roberta Seid
Lecturer, UCI

CC: Mark Yudof, President University of California
University of California Regents
Richard D. Barton, UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion
Anthony J. Cascardi, Director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
Paola Bacchetta, Coordinator Muslim Identities and Cultures Working Group of the Townsend Center for the Humanities



One Response

  1. Poor judgements by Birgeneau: UC Berkeley’s $500,000 public employee. When UC Berkeley announced its elimination of baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse teams and its defunding of the national-champion men’s rugby team, the chancellor sighed, “Sorry, but this was necessary!”
    But was it? Yes, the university is in dire financial straits. Yet $3 million was somehow found to pay the Bain consulting firm to uncover waste and inefficiencies in UC Berkeley, despite the fact that a prominent East Coast university was doing the same thing without consultants.
    Essentially, the process requires collecting and analyzing information from faculty and staff. Apparently, senior administrators at UC Berkeley believe that the faculty and staff of their world-class university lack the cognitive ability, integrity, and motivation to identify millions in savings. If consultants are necessary, the reason is clear: the chancellor, provost, and president have lost credibility with the people who provided the information to the consultants. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau has reigned for eight years, during which time the inefficiencies proliferated. Even as Bain’s recommendations are implemented (“They told me to do it”, Birgeneau), credibility and trust problems remain.
    Bain is interviewing faculty, staff, senior management and the academic senate leaders for $150 million in inefficiencies, most of which could have been found internally. One easy-to-identify problem, for example, was wasteful procurement practices such as failing to secure bulk discounts on printers. But Birgeneau apparently has no concept of savings: even in procuring a consulting firm, he failed to receive proposals from other firms.

    Students, taxpayers, faculty, and staff are the victims of his incompetence. Now that sports teams are feeling the pinch, perhaps the California Alumni Association, benefactors and donators, and the UC Board of Regents will demand to know why Birgeneau is raking in $500,000 a year despite the abdication of his responsibilities.

    The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates

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