In a course at UCLA called “Tribal Worldviews,” Associate Professor David Delgado Shorter included in his syllabus a link petition that boycotts Israel. UCLA Faculty Senate Chairman Dr. Andrew Leuchter, a psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences professor at UCLA, accused Shorter of using his academic position to promote an anti-Semitic political agenda. The faculty itself ultimately sided with Shorter, vindicating him of wrongdoing.
The UCLA Academic Senate' Committee on Academic Freedom ruled last week that Shorter’s actions fell well under the umbrella of academic freedom. According to UCLA policy, professors may present controversial material in class provided that it remains a tool of “teaching a controversy” rather than a persuasive device. Shorter said he posted the link as a source for students interested in writing on Gaza: one of four potential options available to them for a research paper on indigenous studies.
A letter from California Professors For Academic Freedom, an organization of 134 faculty members from 20 universities in the California area, claims that Leuchter never spoke to Shorter directly. Instead, he brought the questionable material on the syllabus to the attention of Professor Angelia Leung, Shorter’s superior, to give him this ultimatum: if he wanted to teach the material, he could not use images of the petition depicting his signature. The letter alleges that Leuchter never spoke with Shorter directly about the questionable petition.
Shorter took the offensive, suggesting to the Senate's Committee on Academic Freedom that they formally censure Leuchter. He reverses the charge to accuse Leuchter himself of using his academic standing for political leverage.
Teachers who divulge their personal political positions to their students must respect those same students, allowing them the prerogative to agree or disagree without fear of penalty. Teachers only run afoul when and if they choose to grade their students based on their complicity with those positions, or lack of the same.
The grievances leveled against Shorter come not from students claiming that he graded them unfairly, but rather from an external interest group: Amcha. The story would change drastically should Amcha, Leuchter, or other parties who take issue with Shorter’s syllabus furnish evidence that his students experienced a bias either for or against him in his grading. Otherwise, the case against him is, and will remain weak.