I have taught for 52 years and worked with 15,000 students but never in my career did I ever violate academic freedom in the manner displayed by Professor William Robinson, a Jewish professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Robinson, and his defender Noam Chomsky, have raised the banner of academic freedom. Unfortunately, it was Robinson who violated this concept, not those attacking him. Professor Robinson was teaching a course, “Sociology of Globalization” and during this course, he sent an email to all students in his class which claimed; “Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw- a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease, and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide.” He compared the Israel invasion of Gaza to the Holocaust.
Professor Robinson is either, (a) ignorant of the Holocaust, (b) stupid, (c) a malicious sick man. Let’s examine the manner in which he violated his role as a professor.
1. He sent an email to all students which meant his views impacted the entire class and it was impossible for a student to respond to the entire class.
2. This was not a class dealing with the Holocaust so Professor Robinson did not have any awareness of the knowledge base of his students regarding the Holocaust or even what they knew about what is meant by genocide. We can assume a high percent of his students did not have this knowledge and thus were unable to refute the professor’s ignorant statements.
3. A professor has the power of giving a “grade” which means there is no level playing field when he introduced a controversial issue. Students responding to him risked having grades lowered if they challenged their professor on a topic that was NOT part of the curriculum.
4. A professor with a sense of intellectual honesty should have provided students readings, videos or access to opposing views if he wanted to introduce this comparison. The majority of his students lacked knowledge and his responsibility was to ensure they would be in an intellectual position to respond in an informed manner.
I do not know if Professor Robinson is an anti-Semite. I do know in this incident he displayed poor teaching procedures and displayed an ignorance of the Holocaust that is inexcusable for a college professor.