Boycott the Alt-Right @UCBerkeley, September 24-27

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A letter from UCB Faculty to the Campus and Berkeley Community

While there has still not been an official announcement from campus administrators, we are learning that from September 24th to 27th, the University of California at Berkeley will provide a platform to Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Stephen K. Bannon, Breitbart media and their far right audience. A series of explicitly violent Alt-Right, militia and pro-Fascist events are also, again, being scheduled for Civic Center/ MLK park in downtown Berkeley on those days.

Once more, signs point towards an escalated and uncontrollable confrontation both on and off campus during these four days. The history of these events has been chilling. Since Inauguration Day, Alt-Right followers have shot someone at the University of Washington, stabbed two people to death on public transport in Portland, stabbed to death a college senior in Maryland, beaten numerous nonviolent protesters at the University of Virginia, and most recently murdered a peaceful protester with an automobile in Charlottesville.

Most immediately troubling, given Trump’s decision to end DACA, is that these forces have publicly expressed their intent to specifically target “sanctuary campuses” and disclose the identity of undocumented students. As concerned faculty members, we cannot remain silent while students, staff, colleagues, and fellow community members are threatened.

Therefore, as faculty committed to the safety of our students and our campus, we are calling for a complete boycott of all classes and campus activities while these Alt-Right events are taking place at the very center of UC Berkeley’s campus. As faculty we cannot ask students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety in order to attend class or come to work in an environment of harassment, intimidation, violence, and militarized policing. The reality is that particularly vulnerable populations (DACA students, non-white, gender queer, Muslims, disabled, feminists, and others) have already been harmed, and are reporting increased levels of fear and anxiety about the upcoming events, the increased police presence on our campus, and how all this will impact their lives and their studies.

It is not just physical violence that our campus faces from this media circus. Many of these provocateurs’ most committed audiences are online, and the Breitbart media machine uses that audience to harass, cyberbully, and threaten anyone who speaks out against them. Students and faculty on our campus have already had their lives threatened for speaking out against Milo and his followers. Online threats are real threats, and if we allow this intolerant and bullying version of free speech to take over our campus, then it can only but come at the expense of the free speech rights of the Berkeley community as a whole. In fact, campus safety concerns have already forced the Anthropology Department to cancel a public talk during “free speech week.” This makes clear that the administration understands the imminent threat to campus safety while also revealing that the loud demands of the Alt-Right has the effect of silencing members of our campus community.

We recognize that as a public institution, we are legally bound by the Constitution to allow all viewpoints on campus. However, there are forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment. These include speech that presents imminent physical danger and speech that disrupts the university’s mission to educate. Milo, Coulter and Bannon do not come to educate; they and their followers come to humiliate and incite. If the administration insists upon allowing the Alt-Right to occupy the center of our campus for four days to harass, threaten and intimidate us, as they did during Milo’s visit in February, then faculty cannot teach, staff cannot work and students cannot learn.

We refuse to grant the Alt-Right the media spectacle that they so desperately desire. This strategy responds to the concerns voiced in the letter authored by the chairs of the three departments most impacted–Gender & Women’s Studies, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies – and also follows the lead of the SPLC advice to ignore these agitators. As faculty, we reject both the administration’s rhetoric of false equivalency that all speech – including “hate speech” – merits value and respect and also the impulse to see direct confrontation as the only strategy of resistance. A boycott of all campus activities during these days is the only responsible course of action. Therefore we are calling upon faculty to take the following steps:

1. Cancel classes and tell students to stay home. A boycott of classes affirms that our fundamental responsibility as faculty is to protect the safety and well being of all our students. While we understand the argument that canceling classes might be seen as a penalty to students who want to learn–by holding class when some students CAN NOT attend by virtue of theirDACA status and the imminent threat that these campus events hold, faculty who DO hold classes are disadvantaging DACA students and others who will feel threatened by being on campus.

2. Close buildings, close departments and let staff stay home. If the campus is unsafe for student learning then it is unsafe for staff members to work. We should work with campus maintenance and building managers to close as many departments and buildings as possible, starting with those in the immediate vicinity of Sproul Plaza. No one should be forced to worksurrounded by men with clubs, police with guns and the sting of teargas.

3. Faculty who decide to hold class during this week, in the face of these explicit threats, should not penalize students who are afraid to come to campus. It is unfair and discriminatory for faculty to schedule exams or require attendance during this week. Such an expectation forces students to choose between their physical safety, their mental well being, and a grade. Consider making a video lecture available, give the students a take-home assignment, or creating another alternative class plan. If you decide you must hold class, please do it away from campus, away from the Telegraph Avenue point of campus entry, and away from Downtown.

The Administration, in failing to halt these events, has left concerned faculty with no other choice than to act to prevent further harm to our community. We urge you to join us in keeping our students and our campus safe by signing on to this call for a campus-wide- boycott.

In Solidarity, Signed:

Michael Mark Cohen
Associate Teaching Professor, American Studies and African American Studies

Leigh Raiford,
Associate Professor, African American Studies

Juana María Rodríguez
Professor, Ethnic Studies

Charis Thompson
Chancellor’s Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society

Leslie Salzinger
Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies

Jeffrey Skoller
Associate Professor, Film and Media

Natalia Brizuela
Associate Professor, Spanish & Portuguese and Film and Media

Julia Bryan-Wilson
Professor, History of Art

Allan Desouza
Associate Professor & Chair, Art Practice

Ramona Naddaff
Associate Professor, Rhetoric

Peter Glazer
Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies

Mary Ann Doane,
Class of 1937 Professor of Film & Media

Anne Walsh
Associate Professor, Art Practice

Jake Kosek
Associate Professor, Geography

Stephanie Syjuco
Assistant Professor, Art Practice

Mel Y. Chen
Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies

Cori Hayden
Associate Professor, Anthropology

Gregory Levine
Professor, Art and Architecture of Japan and Buddhist Visual Cultures

James Vernon
Professor, Department of History

Samera Esmeir
Associate Professor, Rhetoric

Victoria E. Robinson
Lecturer, Ethnic Studies

Paola Bacchetta
Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Minoo Moallem
Professor, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Déborah Blocker
Associate Professor, Department of French

Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
Edward A. Dickson Distinguished Emeriti Professor, Ethnic Studies

Patricia Penn Hilden
Professor Emerita, Ethnic Studies

Chris Zepeda-Millan
Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies

Mark Goble
Associate Professor, English

Keith P. Feldman
Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies

Nadia Ellis
Associate Professor, English

Nikki Jones
Associate Professor, African American Studies

Susan Schweik,
Professor, English

Geoffrey G. O’Brien
Associate Professor, English

Richard B. Norgaard
Professor Emeritus, Energy and Resources Group

Rachel Morello-Frosch
Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management & School of Public Health

Emily O’Rourke
Rhetoric, GSI

Beezer de Martelly
PhD Candidate, Music/Ethnomusicology

Laleh Behbehanian
Lecturer, Dept. Of Sociology

Suzanne Guerlac
Professor, French Department

Ivonne del Valle
Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

Simon Rogghe
GSI, French Department

Joni Spigler
ABD, History of Art Dept

Soraya Tlatli
Associate Professor, French

Eric Peterson
PhD Student, Dept. of Architecture

Akua Ofori
Postdoctoral Scholar

Ayse Agis
Continuing Lecturer, Gender and Women’s Studies

Maria Faini
CRG Specialist/PhD Candidate: Ethnic Studies/Critical Theory

Scott Hewicker
Lecturer, First Year Program

Caroline Lemak Brickman
PhD candidate, Slavic Dept.

Sima Belmar
Lecturer, TDPS

Bryan Wagner
Associate Professor, English

Ian Duncan,
Professor of English

Joshua Anderson
GSI, English

Todd P. Olson
Professor, History of Art

Donna Honarpisheh
Comparative Literature

Anne-Lise Francois
Associate Professor, Comparative Literature & English

Manuel Rosaldo
PhD Candidate, Sociology

Jovan Lewis
Assistant Professor, Geography and African-American Studies

Alex Bush
PhD Candidate, Film & Media

Seth Holmes
Public Health and Medical Anthropology

Maya Kronfeld
PhD Candidate Comparative Literature

Johnathan Vaknin
PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda
East Asian Languages and Cultures

Kathryn Levine
Ph.D. Candidate, French

Hallie Wells
PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Daniel Benjamin
GSI, English

Ernest Artiz
GSI, Department of English

Christian Nagler
PhD Candidate, Theater, Dance & Performance Studies

Zachary Levenson
Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology

Abigail De Kosnik
Associate Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies

Lida Zeitlin Wu
PhD candidate, Film & Media

Elias Lawliet
PhD student, Jurisprudence and Social Policy

John Mundell
PhD student, African American & African Diaspora Studies

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities, History of Art

Pedro Rolon
GSI/ Ph.D. student, Comparative Literature

Alex Brostoff
GSI and PhD student, Comparative Literature

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