California Scholars for Academic Freedom Letter of Concern for AMED Program at SFSU

Dear Chancellor White and President Mahoney:


We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom,** a group of over two hundred scholars throughout California, write to you today about our concerns over the recent cancellation of two Palestine-specific classes in the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program at SFSU that are scheduled for the Fall 2020 semester. The two classes, “The Palestine Mural” and “Comparative Border Studies Palestine and Mexico,” offered by lecturers, were cancelled under the misleading term of “hiding” them, where these classes were not transparently offered in the campus class schedule. The reason professor Abdulhadi was given for the cancellation of the courses was the drop in SFSU student enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are equally concerned about the impact such cancellation will have on lecturers’ livelihood which is already precarious to start with. As you know faculty on several U.S. campuses have threatened to boycott any campus that causes the loss of lecturer income ( )


Frankly, the cancellation of these two classes raises questions, given the other recent actions taken by the administration toward the program and Professor Abdulhadi herself, about which we have repeatedly written to you and past SFSU and CSU leadership. The actions constitute a troubling pattern that cannot be attributed to accidental and isolated incidents but seem designed in our view to attempt to silence Dr. Abdulhadi’s scholarship, pedagogy and advocacy on justice in/for Palestine by high-level administrators at SFSU, who also cater to donors outside SFSU. These actions can only be interpreted as a sustained campaign to make it intolerable for Professor Abdulhadi to work at SFSU, a demand that has been consistently advocated by pro-Israel Zionist groups.


During this past academic year alone, despite her seniority, Professor Abdulhadi was denied membership in one search committee and kept in the dark over initial and ensuing processes in two other search committees from which she was forced to resign to protest the lack of transparency and irregular actions.


Dr. Abdulhadi was denied an overdue sabbatical for AY 2020-2021. When she tried to appeal this decision that she felt was unfair, she was told that an appeal was a foreclosed option.


Dr. Abdulhadi received assurances that AMED will receive its share of two sections of the Introductory course to Ethnic Studies, a gateway course that would attract incoming students to AMED Studies. She was then told that she missed a deadline. When she pointed out that she didn’t, she was told that the two sections were already staffed ahead of said deadline. Finally, Dr. Abdulhadi offered to teach the two introductory sections at the expense of her own intellectual work as long as the other AMED courses she is scheduled to teach are staffed. That proposal was dismissed and did not even merit a response from SFSU administrators.


As a one-person program, Dr. Abdulhadi was denied the hire of a work-study student to assist her with her multiple tasks even though funds were already allocated. SFSU claimed that no students would be hired, forcing Dr. Abdulhadi to hire the student out of pocket, a cost she’s been incurring for several years now.


As a faculty member suffering from permanent disabilities, Dr. Abdulhadi has been repeatedly refused accommodation on multiple occasions by the SFSU disability accommodation until in flagrant violation of ADA. This included refusal to accommodate her for online teaching despite strong medical recommendations and the urgent need for her safety given that the author of the July 19, 2019 death threat letter she received was never found. Dr. Abdulhadi was promised the hire of qualified students from top universities who were familiar with her work and required no training. After agreeing while putting her through a lengthy paperwork process, SFSU refused to let her bring in those qualified young persons under the pretext that SFSU did not hire anyone who was not a California resident. When Dr. Abdulhadi pressed for proof that CSU did not have on its payroll a single person who was not a California resident, she was told that this was a decision made by HR, an opaque process that should not be tolerated at a publicly accountable university nor at private institutions for that matter.


This treatment of Dr. Abdulhadi stands in stark contrast to the recent award Professor Abdulhadi has just received,  the Georgina Smith prize by the Association of American University Professors (AAUP).


In order to address the issues that may be involved in the cancellation of AMED courses, we need to have more information about the courses and the lecturers. What other classes have been cancelled because of the pandemic? How many SFSU lecturers’ jobs have been threatened and can you provide us with the names? What were the enrollment numbers for these two classes before they were cancelled? How do these enrollment numbers compare with the enrollment numbers of other cancelled classes and fired lecturers? Why were these two courses cancelled and AMED lecturers fired before Professor Abdulhadi had a chance to apply for CSU wide Course Match, where students from other CSU campuses could take these classes remotely in order to enhance enrollment.  Finally, are you willing to reverse this adverse action and allow the AMED Palestine courses to move forward and lecturers to retain their livelihoods?


Please send us this information as soon as possible and before this action becomes irreversible. Again, due to other actions taken by the SFSU administration that have hobbled and harmed the AMED program we have to question the reasons for the cancellation of these two classes.


On Behalf of California Scholars for Academic Freedom,


Judith Butler
Maxine Elliot Professor, Comparative Literature and Critical Theory
University of California, Berkeley


Richard Falk
Research Associate, Orfalea Center
University of California, Santa Barbara
Professor Emeritus, Princeton University


Jamal Nassar, Dean Emeritus
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
California State University, San Bernardino


Hatem Bazian
Director, Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Asian American Studies
University of California, Berkeley


Sang Kil
Associate Professor
Justice Studies Department
San Jose State University


Nancy Gallagher
Professor Emerita, History
University of California, Santa Barbara


Vida Samiian
Visiting Researcher, Linguistics
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor of Linguistics and Dean Emerita
California State University, Fresno


Sondra Hale
Professor Emerita
Anthropology and Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles


Craig Reinarman
Professor Emeritus of Sociology & Legal Studies
Rachel Carson College 338
University of California


Carole H. Browner
Distinguished Research Professor
Center for Culture and Health
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior,
Department of Anthropology,
Department of Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles


Suad Joseph
Distinguished Research Professor
University of California, Davis


David Klein
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, Northridge


Susan Slyomovics
Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
University of California, Los Angeles


Walid Afifi
Professor, Dept of Communication,
University of California, Santa Barbara


Stephen Zunes
Professor of Politics
University of San Francisco


Dennis Kortheuer
Dept. of history, emeritus
California State University, Long Beach


Gary Fields
University of California, San Diego
Department of Communication
La Jolla, CA 92093-0503

Ismail Poonawala
Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies
University of California, Los Angeles


Ruth Goldstein
Assistant Professor of Global and International Studies
University of California, Irvine


Cc: James Martel, President, California Faculty Association,,  Leticia Hernandez, Chair, CSU Trustees,,Teddy Albiniak, Incoming Chair, Academic Senate, San Francisco State University,, Nancy C. Gerber, Outgoing Chair, Academic Senate, San Francisco State University,, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Director, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies,


Cc: Friends of AMED Committee:
Hatem Bazian <>
Zahra Billoo <>
Diana Block <>
Terry Collins <>
Nesbitt Crutchfield <>
Jamal Dajani <>
Alexei Folger <>
Ossama Kamel <>
Zoha Khalili <>
Lara Kiswani <>
Loubna Qutami <>
Penny Rosenwasser <>
Saliem Shehadeh <>
Grace Shimizu <>
David Spero RN <>
Michael Yoshii <>


**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles. Our vigilance extends to violations of academic freedom anywhere in the United States and abroad, for we recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere.