University of California, Berkeley administrators on Monday reinstated a Palestinian history class amid an outcry over its suspension last week. The school’s social science dean announced in letter to faculty that the ethnic studies class was reinstated after the teacher revised the course description. Social science dean Carla Hesse suspended “Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis” after receiving a complaint from Jewish and civil rights groups that the course syllabus appeared to describe a politically motivated, anti-Semitic class. Hesse suspended the class, saying it wasn’t properly vetted to ensure it wasn’t espousing a single political viewpoint.
The suspension triggered protests from critics who said the action threatened academic freedom. Hesse said the class was reinstated after the teacher revised the syllabus. The dean said she didn’t ask for changes of the course’s content. The one-unit class is taught by student Paul Hadweh, who said the class was suspended without consulting him.
“The university threw me under the bus, and publicly blamed me, without ever even contacting me,” Hadweh said in a prepared statement. “To defend the course, we had to mobilize an international outcry of scholars and students to stand up for academic freedom. This never should have happened.”
Hadweh is represented by attorney Liz Jackson of the organization Palestinian Legal. Jackson said the changes to the syllabus were “cosmetic” and that Hadweh and Palestinian Legal is “considering all of its options,” including a possible lawsuit. The dean said she suspended the class for review after discovering that neither she nor the chair of the ethnic department had seen or approved the course syllabus.
Jackson said the class meets on Tuesday nights and had met for the first and only time on Sept. 6 before the class was suspended. She said she expects it will convene Tuesday. Last week, a letter signed by 43 Jewish and civil rights groups said the course description, speaker lineup and Hadweh’s affiliation with pro-Palestinian groups show a politically motivated class.
“A review of the syllabus of ‘Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis’ reveals that the course’s objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government’s criteria for antisemitism, and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it,” the letter stated.
The revised class syllabus says the “course will examine key historical developments that have taken place in Palestine from the 1880s to the present, through the lens of settler colonialism.” Hadweh is a senior who says his family is from Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem.
“I hope we can now focus on the challenging intellectual and political questions that this course seeks to address,” Hadweh said.