The chancellor of the California State University system has denounced a message from a San Francisco State University professor who rejected the welcoming of Zionist students, saying it “explicitly contradicts” the school’s “principles of inclusion.”
Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, founding director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, first drew criticism in late February, when she rejected a public apology by SFSU President Leslie Wong for past comments affecting the Jewish community.
Wong’s statement — which included an assurance that “Zionists are welcome on our campus,” following past equivocation on the subject — was characterized by Abdulhadi in a social media post as “a declaration of war” against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians.
The AMED Facebook page shared Abdulhadi’s message shortly after it was published. That same day, the phrases “Zionists not welcome,” “Zionism = racism,” and “Judaism =/= Zionism” were found written in chalk on campus. Wong’s apology was also criticized the following month by the school’s Department of Women and Gender Studies, which linked to the official homepage of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israelis in response.
The backlash prompted 60 education, religious, and civil rights organizations — organized by the watchdog group AMCHA Initiative — to denounce Abdulhadi’s “incendiary” post in a March 20th email to Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system.
“The message clearly targeted Jewish students at SFSU for vilification and discrimination, and could be read by many as a frightening incitement to violence,” the coalition wrote.
“Most disturbing of all, however, is that AMED, an academic unit in the College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU, would re-post such a hateful message and give it both academic and institutional legitimacy,” it continued. “We believe that AMED’s reposting of Professor Abdulhadi’s hateful message violates Jewish students’ inalienable rights to freedom of expression and full participation in campus life, rights that are guaranteed to each and every CSU student.”
The groups urged White “to thoroughly investigate AMED and its administration, and to inform California taxpayers exactly how you intend to address this shameful violation of student rights and university standards.”
Less than a week later, the chancellor responded by affirming that SFSU “took immediate corrective action with this faculty member regarding the post,” and pointed to a statement released earlier in the day by President Wong, which criticized Abdulhadi’s post for failing to “reflect the opinions, values, or policies of San Francisco State University.”
“As I write you, it is not yet clear whether this faculty member will comply with the request,” White continued. “If not, the University will explore all appropriate options with respect to this conduct.”
He indicated that “SFSU is also updating its social media policies and practices to help prevent this type of situation and better safeguard the university’s web presence.”
An SFSU representative confirmed to The Algemeiner that the university’s “corrective action” included a request to remove Abdulhadi’s post from the AMED Studies Facebook page, which — as of Thursday — had not been completed. The spokesperson said the matter remained under review.
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