August 27, 2021
VIA EMAIL: (email@example.com)
Dear Chancellor Guskiewicz,
We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international non-profit Israel education organization. We write to request that you immediately enact protective measures and issue guidelines to ensure that the University of North Carolina (“UNC”) fall semester course, “The Conflict Over Israel/Palestine,” does not create a hostile campus climate for UNC’s Jewish, Zionist and Israeli students in violation of your obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the provisions of your 2019 Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.
For background, as you are undoubtedly aware, Ms. Broderick has repeatedly and publicly espoused anti-Israel viewpoints, including support for the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) movement. These statements call into serious question whether she has any intention of teaching the course in a neutral, unbiased fashion befitting an academic setting.
The American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure imposes several relevant restraints on academic freedom:
(1) Faculty members are expected to “exercise appropriate restraint” and “show respect for the opinions of others.” A professor’s academic freedom is here limited so as not to alienate or marginalize students with divergent viewpoints or create a fear of grade or other retribution. The professor’s academic freedom may be limited to protect the intellectual integrity and diversity of the overall campus climate.
(2) For the same reasons, faculty members should “make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution,” lest students believe that a professor’s divisive and alienating political views represent those of the university, thereby creating a hostile campus climate.
Furthermore, professors and teaching staff must avoid any appearance of conduct which could be deemed discriminatory. The AAUP Statement on Professional Ethics states, “Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors…They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.” Otherwise, administrations may—and should—censure professors.
The current practice of some faculty—when espousing biased, political viewpoints in their classrooms—likely violates professional standards and disregards the parameters of academic freedom. We therefore request that you immediately clarify to your faculty your expected standards of conduct in the classroom and the boundaries of academic freedom.
Also directly relevant to this situation is the 2019 Resolution Agreement UNC entered into with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights following a conference on campus that included instances of overt antisemitism. Pursuant to that agreement, and consistent with its obligations under Title VI, UNC agreed “to continue to take all steps reasonably designed to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment and to respond to allegations of anti-Semitic harassment.”
One such step, specifically included in the Resolution Agreement, is the University's continued commitment to its own Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct (“Policy”). Notably, the Policy applies not only to on-campus conduct but also to some conduct that occurs off-campus, including via social media platforms, and provides that “the Director of Equal Opportunity and Compliance or the Title IX Coordinator will assess whether the alleged conduct has or is reasonably likely to have continuing adverse effects or to create a hostile environment for students, employees, or third parties while on campus or in any University employment or education program or activity.”
In addition to taking all steps necessary to ensure that no prohibited discrimination or harassment occurs within the course at issue, we urge your administration to investigate whether the off-campus conduct of Ms. Broderick that has already been reported to you, including the conduct detailed in recent media reports, constitutes prohibited conduct over which the University has jurisdiction pursuant to the Policy. If such jurisdiction exists, we urge you to take all appropriate steps necessary to remedy the hostile environment that her conduct may have created.
In sum, we recognize and appreciate the campus environment as a place for diverging viewpoints and discourse. The fundamental pillars of academic freedom and free expression are essential to institutions of higher learning. However, professors should not champion and disseminate one-sided political viewpoints while teaching controversial subjects on behalf of a university. This is especially true of rhetoric and actions that marginalize students based on protected components of their identity, such as the Jewish religion, Jewish ethnicity or ancestry, and Israeli national origin.
We believe your administration can and should take the following actions to ensure a fair and equitable environment for all students taking Ms. Broderick’s class:
· Clarify academic freedom boundaries for UNC professors by providing concrete guidelines. Ensure that UNC academic department leadership understand their obligations to censure when those guidelines are violated.
· We understand that all of Ms. Broderick’s lectures for this course will be recorded. We note that your administration has publicly declared its support of Ms. Broderick’s teaching and has full confidence that it will be in keeping with professional standards. We therefore request that you make these lectures publicly available for students and community members immediately after each class, to ensure full transparency that Ms. Broderick is abiding by UNC’s professional standards in providing a non-discriminatory learning environment for students.
· Allow a representative from the UNC Carolina Center for Jewish Studies to audit Ms. Broderick’s class.
· Have all examinations and other required assignments graded blindly with supervised oversight to ensure that students are not arbitrarily punished for having diverging viewpoints.
Campus administrators play a critical role in creating ethical boundaries and clarifying policies for the university community. Such boundaries do not infringe on free speech or academic freedom principles; rather, they provide moral clarity and recalibrate campus to an equitable, inclusive, and intellectually robust environment. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. StandWithUs is available to consult with you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Given the urgency of this matter and academic year already underway, we respectfully ask for your response by September 10, 2021.
Co-Founder & CEO
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department
StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism