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CFA Resolution on the Zoom Cancellation of a SFSU Zoom Classroom

WHEREAS the first amendment to the U.S. the Constitution defines free speech as the absence of laws and constraints “abridging the freedom of speech,” and 

WHEREAS The 1940 AAUP statement explicitly says “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject,”

WHEREAS institutions such as San Francisco State University are public institutions, and faculty members are public employees who have by law and shared governance declaration both free speech and academic freedom rights, and

WHEREAS on September 23rd 2020 a virtual open classroom titled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice & Resistance: A Conversation with Leila Khaled” organized by our two colleagues and union members Prof. Abdulhadi and Prof. Tomomi Kinukawa, and sponsored by SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program and the Women and Gender Studies Department, and, was cancelled by Zoom, blocked by Facebook from livestream, and taken down twice by YouTube, and

WHEREAS by cancelling the event Zoom directly violated the CSU, SFSU, AAUP academic freedom policies, it challenged federal and state court law, and infringed on the preamble of the CFA contract which states that “the CSU shall support the pursuit of excellence and academic freedom in teaching, research, and learning through the free exchange of ideas among the faculty, students, and staff,” and 

WHEREAS the reason for the censorship is that it featured a conversation with Leila Khaled, a Palestinian activist, connected to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – which the U.S. government has labelled as “terrorist”, and to two plane hijackings that took place in 1969 and 1970 which had no casualties, and

WHEREAS Leila Khaled was speaking as a feminist in a movement for national liberation, and several competent civil rights attorneys have asserted that Leila Khaled speaking to a classroom was in no way a violation of any criminal law despite the spurious campaign led by the Lawfare Project, and

WHEREAS many off-campus right-wing Zionist groups exerted  tremendous pressure to force the university to cancel the event, and to prevent Leila Khaled from speaking to SFSU students in the open classroom, and

WHEREAS while President Mahoney defended the open classroom in a public op-ed in J-Weekly in the name of academic freedom: “this is the time in a student’s education when exposure to the views of their academic instructors challenges their intellectual capacity and brings about greater intellectual rigor;” on Friday, September 18th, the Provost emailed the two faculty organizers to convey a chilling message: that  the SFSU administration had been alerted of a “claim of potential criminal activity”, for the participation of Leila Khaled in the event “would violate 18 U.S.C. § 2339B,” clearly stated that “a violation of the statute might result in a fine or other more severe penalties, such as imprisonment” and included a warning “you may want to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney, ” and

WHEREAS the day before the open-classroom event, which had more than 1,500 registered participants, and had involved the active engagement and preparation by students, Zoom announced that the class was cancelled and no alternative was offered to hold the class, and

WHEREAS Prof. Abdulhadi, Prof. Kinukawa and the students refused to give up, and they did everything they could to hold the event and ensure the “continuity of instruction” our administration declared to be non-negotiable in Covid-19 times, such as trying live streaming the open classroom via Facebook, which blocked it and deleted the open classroom announcement, and attempting to broadcast it live on YouTube before the web giant took it down twice, therefore

LET IT BE RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board strongly condemns the actions of Zoom, Facebook and YouTube, as censorship, and as unacceptable violations of our free speech and academic freedom rights, and 

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board considers that when the academic freedom of some members is threatened, the academic freedom of the ENTIRE university community that is at stake, and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board considers that free speech constitutional rights and academic freedom rights have legal and practical precedence over any agreement with a private company and  that, as such the university should not engage in any business or legal agreement that would restrict in any way the academic freedom and free speech rights of SFSU faculty and students, and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board is launching a campaign and petition to ask the SFSU administration to either amend or cancel its current agreement with the private company Zoom to preserve and enforce our academic freedom and free speech rights, and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board asks the SFSU administration to immediately find options to develop our own public platform to teach so we are no longer to rely on private companies, and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the CFA-SFSU executive board demands the SFSU administration to defend in action the academic freedom of faculty who have been censored and targeted, including providing legal support to defend them from spurious and unfounded legal charges.

Commands