UC Berkeley Reinstates Student Course on Palestine

Course was reinstated after solving procedural issues; revisions were made to the syllabus in response to concerns that the course was promoting political agenda.

Pro-Israel student advocates at UC Berkeley.
Pro-Israel student advocates at UC Berkeley. Judy Maltz

The University of California, Berkeley, has reinstated a student-led course about the history of Palestine a week after suspending it following an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university’s academic standards.

The course has been renamed “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Inquiry,” Jweekly reported Monday, after originally being called “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis.”

Carla Hesse, executive dean of the university’s College of Letters and Science, announced Monday that she had reinstated the course, saying that procedural issues in question had been resolved and that revisions had been made to the syllabus in response to concerns that the course was promoting a political agenda, according to Jweekly.

“I fully support and defend the principles and policies of our campus that protect the academic freedom of all members of our community, whether students, faculty staff or visitors, as well as the shared governance of our campus by the administration and faculty Senate,” Hesse wrote in a letter Monday to department chairs in the division of social sciences and the divisional council of the academic senate.

On Sept. 13, the university suspended the course after determining that the student facilitator, Paul Hadweh, “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program” for student-led courses, said Dan Mogulof, the school’s assistant vice chancellor.

A day earlier, Berkeley Hillel and its international umbrella group had called on the university’s president, Janet Napolitano, and administrators to condemn the one-credit course in a strongly worded statement that called it a “one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda.”

The course syllabus said it would cover the history of Palestine from the 1880s to the present and “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” Students were to be required to attend an event “relating to Palestine” during the semester and make a final presentation proposing a “decolonial alternative” to the region’s problems not restricted to the two-state solution.

The course was to be offered as part of the university’s DeCal program in which students propose and teach one-credit courses under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Other DeCal classes offered this academic year include “Cal Pokeman Academy,” “Art Anatomy” and “Science in Oakland Elementary Schools.”