BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Just days after cancelling a controversial course on the history of Palestine, University of California at Berkeley has reinstated it. In a letter on Monday, Carla Hesse, the executive dean of the College of Letters and Science, said she was rescinding suspension of the course.
The move is the latest salvo in what has been a barrage of letters for the past week.
Last Tuesday the university pulled the course titled Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis in the middle of the semester after dozens of Jewish groups complained it was anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
The class is part of UC’s student-run program known as DeCal.
At issue was the course description which said the one-unit course examined the history of Palestine “through the lens of settler colonialism.”
“We will explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine, one in which justice is realized for all its peoples and equality is not merely espoused, but practiced,” said the flier used to promote the course.
A letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks dated September 13 and signed by 43 Jewish activist groups said the course syllabus revealed reading materials and guest speakers that would ultimately encourage “students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it.” It said such a curriculum violated the university policy which prohibits using the classroom “as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest” or for “political indoctrination.”
The course’s subsequent removal set off an intense debate between pro-Palestine and pro-Isreal activists, both on and off-campus, and petitions calling for its reinstatement.
Student instructor Paul Hadweh said he was blindsided by the move. “I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated,” the 22-year-old senior told The Guardian. “I knew I followed all the policies and procedures.”
On Wednesday, students in the course sent their own letter to Chancellor Dirks and Hesse calling the criticisms unfounded and demanding reinstatement on the grounds of “academic freedom.”
“We hold any claims made by campus administration or by outside organizations against the course to be blatantly false, especially any claims or concerns that the course would only tolerate a single or particular view,” it said.
In Hesse’s letter on Monday, she called the concerns raised regarding the suspension “understandable.” The dean said she was basically unfamiliar with Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis at the time of her decision to suspend the course and described the faculty/student meetings that have taken place since then to address concerns and determine “how to move forward.”
“The Student Facilitator, the Chair and the Executive Committed of the Department of Ethnic Studies determined that revisions of the course in light of these concerns were necessary and appropriate… I am therefore rescinding my suspension of the course.”