January 29, 2019

By US Mail and Email

Board of Regents

University of California

1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor

Oakland, CA 94607-5200



Chancellor Christ

University of California, Berkeley

Office of the Chancellor

200 California Hall #1500

Berkeley, CA 94720-1500



Chancellor May

University of California, Davis

Offices of the Chancellor and Provost

Fifth Floor, Mrak Hall

One Shields Avenue

Davis, CA 95616



Chancellor Gillman

University of California, Irvine

Office of the Chancellor

510 Aldrich Hall

Irvine, CA 92697-1900



Chancellor Block

University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA Chancellor’s Office

Box 951405, 2147 Murphy Hall

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405



Chancellor Leland

University of California, Merced

5200 Lake Road

Merced, CA 95343


Dear University of California Board of Regents and Chancellors,


The Council on American-Islamic Relations, California (“CAIR-CA”) writes to you to express our deep concern over your 2018 statement of opposition against the movement to boycott, sanction, and divest from the Israeli state (“BDS”). As you are likely aware, BDS is an international movement that seeks to address Israel’s international law violations through various forms of boycott. The BDS movement formed in response to Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine, and the discriminatory and oppressive policies Israel enforces against Palestinian citizens and refugees. The BDS movement is a form of peaceful protest which follows and was inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.


Notably, opposition to BDS has become a controversial issue in national and local politics. As countless civil rights organizations have repeatedly asserted, efforts to combat BDS raise serious First Amendment freedom of speech concerns. Your letter states that BDS poses “a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty.” However, this position ignores the continued reality, that faculty and other professionals who voice their support of BDS, are often targeted and denied tenure, speaking engagements, and other terms of employment because of their support of BDS. In attempting to portray BDS as a silencing tactic, you are disingenuously mischaracterizing a critical First Amendment issue playing itself out on university campuses throughout the United States, including each of the University of California (“UC”) campuses. Namely, there has been a concerted effort by public universities throughout the country to attempt to force speakers and others to pledge that they do not currently and will not in the future endorse BDS before allowing these individuals onto campuses. This effort has gained much attention and protest, and in August 2018 the American Association of University Professors issuing a statement condemning the proliferation and harm of anti-BDS legislation by universities.[1]


Moreover, through indicating your opposition to BDS, you are acting in direct contradiction to the students that you are paid to represent. The student governments of the UC campuses have overwhelmingly voted their support of divestment and the BDS movement, formally passing resolutions supporting these causes as follows: UC Irvine, passed November 2012; UC San Diego, passed March 2013; UC Berkeley, passed April 2013; UC Riverside, passed April 2014; UC Santa Cruz, passed May 2014; UC Los Angeles, passed November 2014; UC Davis, passed January 2015 and repassed May 2015; UC Merced, passed 2016. In addition, the UC Student Association the “official voice of the student body of the University of California” voted to divest in February 2015.[2] Graduate student workers voted at eight of the ten campuses, excluding only UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, voted to join the BDS movement in 2014. In voicing their support, these students have recognized BDS as a nonviolent, democratic form of political protest of serious and continued civil rights infringements. Through ignoring the nearly unanimous support for BDS from the students in the UC system, you are making a shocking choice to defy the very voices that you are employed to triumph.


Finally, the divisive and accusatory language in your statement opposing BDS irresponsibly contributes to intolerance and hostility on UC campuses. CAIR-CA is currently collecting data from Muslim university and college students in California. Although we are still in the initial phase of gathering information, our data already reveals that Muslim students report facing a significantly high amount of harassment and discrimination on their school campuses. The UC schools are responsible for affirmatively protecting the academic freedom of speech of all its faculty, staff, and students. Through voicing opposition to BDS, you are attempting to silence the students, staff, and faculty on your campuses who have overwhelmingly voted to support BDS. CAIR-CA calls on you as UC Chancellors, to unequivocally reaffirm your support for free speech and for civil rights around the world through revoking your opposition to BDS and instead joining your students in support of Palestinian human rights. If you have any questions or concerns about this letter please do not hesitate to contact us, contact information can be found in signature below.

[1] Statement can be found at: https://www.aaup.org/news/statement-anti-bds-legislation-and-universities#.XEY9v1xKiUk.

[2] Mission statement and resolution text and information about passage available at: https://ucsa.org/.