24 July 2002
Sheet on English R1A: "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian
are key points in a months-long process of collaboration between
the Chancellor, the faculty and the graduate student instructor
to address problems and issues raised by plans for a graduate
student instructor to teach a section of the course, English
R1A. The graduate student instructor titled this section: "The
Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance."
Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction, which
has authority to take final action on all matters relating
to courses, approved the reading and composition course, English
R1A, offered by the English Department. The approved course
description appears in the General Catalogue. English R1A
is one of 12,700 courses offered annually, including many
other courses in Middle Eastern and Jewish studies.
- The English Department may offer sections of the approved
English R1A course. Section topics may vary by instructor.
The descriptions for these sections do not appear in the General
Catalogue. They appear on-line and tend to be offered only
once. These sections are not permanent course offerings.
- R1A&B are required Reading and Composition courses that
are taught by graduate student instructors in many sections.
Approximately 60 sections are offered each semester in the
English Department and other Departments. Students have the
option of choosing from any one of these section offerings
to meet the requirement. The content is determined largely
by the graduate student instructor under the supervision of
a faculty member. Instructors select original literature and
secondary texts to provide a basis for class discussions and
writing exercises involving analysis and argument which make
up the real work of the course. There is an upper limit of
17 students per section to ensure maximum attention for each
of the students by the instructor. The enrollment for the
section "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance"
May 9, the day he learned of the section description of the
English R1A course, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian
Resistance," Chancellor Berdahl convened a meeting with
the chair of the English Department. There was unanimous agreement
that the line in the original section description discouraging
"conservative thinkers" from enrolling violates
the faculty code. That language was dropped from the description.
Subsequently, the section description was further changed
to clarify what will be taught and the methodology for achieving
the instructional purposes of the course.
that same day, May 9, Chancellor Berdahl issued a public statement
that was released to the media and posted on the campus Web
site. It reported the initial change made to the description
and declared the university's commitment to take all actions
necessary to ensure that the class will be conducted in a
manner in which students will feel free to express all views
and that their evaluations will be based solely on their academic
performance, not their political viewpoint.
Chancellor and the English Department chair acknowledged in
the announcement that there was a failure of oversight on
the part of the English Department in reviewing section descriptions
authored by graduate student instructors.
on May 9, the chair assumed a direct mentoring role with the
graduate student instructor that continues through the summer.
English Department put into place new oversight structures
to ensure that all current and future section descriptions
be developed in accord with the Faculty Code of Conduct, specifically
that courses not exclude or discourage qualified students
on grounds other than lack of preparation.
a letter to The Wall Street Journal published on May 17, Chancellor
Berdahl again outlined the campus's response, detailing the
change in the section description, the English Department's
commitment to oversight and its on-going efforts to ensure
that the section description and the actual course work allow
for open and free discussions.
Berdahl continued to meet with faculty and campus administrators
to discuss the issue and ensure that disturbing questions
about the proposed section were addressed.
On May 20 Chancellor Berdahl sent a letter to University of
California President Richard Atkinson, updating him on the
actions taken to rectify errors caused by the English Department's
failure of oversight in approving the language of the original
description. These key points are announced in a press release
to the media and posted on the university website:
English Department chair, working with the graduate student
instructor, removed the inappropriate sentence excluding
graduate student instructor amended the section description
to clarify what will be taught and the methodology for achieving
the instructional purposes of the course, consistent with
the requirements of English 1A.
Chancellor and English Department faculty members make clear
the requirement that students in any course have the right
to express themselves openly and to have their work evaluated
free of discrimination or harassment.
English Department chair will explicitly advise students
enrolled in the class of these rights. If students believe
that these rights are compromised, they are to contact the
department chair immediately.
English Department articulates its commitment to guarantee
students enrolled in the class that their evaluations are
based solely on their academic performance, not their political
of the controversy aroused by this section and the potential
for in-class conflict, a senior member of the English Department
Faculty, Professor Steven Goldsmith, will attend each class
as an observer. He and other members of the Department will
continue to mentor the graduate student instructor during
joint Academic Senate/administrative committee will review
the principles and practices of mentoring and overseeing
all sections led by graduate student instructors.
July 14, after consultation with the Chair of the English
Department, the graduate student instructor submitted a revised
section description. The book list and description follow.
The books on the reading list below have been read by Chancellor
Berdahl, the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Chair of the
English Department and other senior administrators and faculty
members. All believe that these books are appropriate material
for the purpose of this section.
list: (tentative) Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian
Stories, Ghassan Kanafani; Born Black, Suheir Hammad; Drops
of This Story, Suheir Hammad; Enemy of the Sun, Naseer Hasan
Aruri; The Adam of Two Edens : Selected Poems, Mahmud Darwish;
Memory for Forgetfulness : August, Beirut, 1982, Mahmud Darwish;
Victims of a Map : A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry,
Mahmud Darwish; Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine
Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein; The Question of Palestine,
Edward W. Said; Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship
and the Palestinian Question, Edward W. Said; The Politics
of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination,
1969-1994, Edward W. Said; Intifada, Phil Marshall.
Description: This is a course on Palestinian resistance
poetry. It takes as its point of departure the Palestinian
literature that has developed since the creation of the state
of Israel in 1948, which has displaced, maimed, and killed
many Palestinian people. The Israeli military occupation of
historic Palestine has caused unspeakable suffering. Since
the occupation, Palestinians have been fighting for their
right to exist. And yet, from under the weight of this occupation,
Palestinians have produced their own culture and poetry of
resistance. This class will examine the history of the Palestinian
resistance and the way that it is narrated by Palestinians.
This class takes as its starting point the right of Palestinians
to fight for their own self-determination.
Discussions about the literature will focus on several intersecting
themes: how are Palestinian artists able to imagine art under
the occupation; what consequences does resistance have on
the character of the art that is produced (i.e. why are there
so few Palestinian epics and plays and comedies); can one
represent the Israeli occupation in art; what is the difference
between political art and propaganda and how do the debates
about those terms inflect the production of literature; how
do poems represent the desire to escape and the longing for
home simultaneously (alternatively, how do poems represent
the nation without a state); what consequence do political
debates have on formal innovations and their reproduction;
and what are the obligations of artists in representing the
This 1A course offers students frequent practice in a variety
of forms of discourse leading toward exposition and argumentation
in common standard English. The course aims at continuing
to develop the students' practical fluency with sentence,
paragraph and thesis-development skills but with increasingly
complex applications. Students will be assigned a number of
short essays (2-4 written pages) and several revisions.
Committee on Courses of Instruction (COCI) of the Berkeley
Division of the Academic Senate is delegated the responsibility
for reviewing all courses offered on the campus. Because of
the controversy surrounding "The Politics and Poetics
of Palestinian Resistance," the Chancellor asked the
Chair of the Academic Senate to convene COCI for the purpose
of consulting with the English Department on the handling
of these sections in general and on the specifics of the above
mentioned section. The Humanities Subcommittee of COCI (with
full authority to act for COCI due to absence of some members
during the summer) met. With regard to the specific section,
David Dowall, the Chair of the Berkeley Division wrote to
the Chancellor: "The subcommittee found that course section
description acceptable and consistent with the course approved
by COCI.1 The subcommittee noted that the reading list was
reasonable." The subcommittee also noted that, prior
to the current issue, no complaints had been received regarding
the topics or instruction of reading and composition sections.
At President Atkinson's request, the full COCI committee will
review the subcommittee finding as soon as it can be convened.
begins on August 26. "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian
Resistance" section (4 units) convenes on Tuesdays and
Thursdays from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.