FREE SPEECH — A faculty committee has notified U.C. Santa Barbara sociology professor William I. Robinson that it has found "no probable cause" to pursue complaints about his invitation to students to compare photos of the Nazi assault on Jews and of the Israeli Defense Force's assault on Gaza. But the tenured professor wants an apology, reports Inside Higher Ed.
In a statement, Robinson said that he is waiting for a public
apology from the university as a first step in clearing my name after
it has smeared my reputation and undermined my professional integrity.
He added that he plans to file a grievance over how he was treated in
The case has attracted attention far beyond Santa Barbara, with the American Association of University Professors last month calling on the university to "pause" its inquiries
because of the academic freedom issues involved. Cary Nelson, national
president of the AAUP, said Wednesday night that "although I am pleased
that the Robinson case has been closed, I am also concerned that
unnecessary investigations of faculty exercising their academic freedom
are having a serious chilling effect on our more vulnerable or less
dates to an e-mail message that Robinson sent to the approximately 80
students in January in a course about sociology and globalization. The
e-mail contained an article criticizing the Israeli military's actions
in Gaza. Part of the e-mail was an assemblage of photos from Nazi
Germany's persecution of Jews and from Israel's actions in Gaza.
Students were invited to look at the "parallel images." A message from
Robinson argued that Gaza would be like "Israel's Warsaw."
In February, the Anti-Defamation League's Santa Barbara office wrote to Robinson
to protest the e-mail and to urge him to repudiate it. "While your
writings are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, we
rely upon our rights to say that your comparisons of Nazis and Israelis
were offensive, ahistorical and have crossed the line well beyond
legitimate criticism of Israel," the letter said. It went on to say
that the "tone and extreme views" in his e-mail were "intimidating to
students," and that using his university e-mail to send "material that
appears unrelated to" his course violated university standards for
Following that letter, two students in the course dropped the class and filed complaints against Robinson. One student wrote
that she felt "nauseous" upon reading the e-mail, and felt it was
inappropriate. A second student complaint accusing Robinson of being
unprofessional — also from a student who dropped the course after
receiving the e-mail — said that Robinson has "clearly stated his
anti-Semitic political views in this e-mail."