Clearing More Air on Al-Qloushi

By March 16, 2005

A reader wrote in with some questions regarding David’s post on Ahmad Al-Qloushi’s situation at Foothill College. The three questions are:

  • Did Woolcock fail Al-Qloushi, fail to give him a grade, or just talk to him about the assignment?
  • Did Woolcock suggest counseling because of what Al-Qloushi had written in the assignment or out of the conversation that Woolcock claims?
  • Did Woolcock initiate a formal complaint against Al-Qloushi, and if so, on what basis?

In regard to the possible answers to the first two questions, at this time the public can only compare Al-Qloushi’s side of the story with Professor Woolcock’s side of the story. To clarify FIRE’s involvement in the case, we are primarily concerned with the third question. Al-Qloushi has reported that after taking his story of the situation public:

Professor Woolcock then filed a school grievance accusing me, under section 5 of Foothill’s grievance code, of an “act or threat of intimidation or general harassment.” … Foothill’s Dean of Student Affairs, Don Dorsey, would not let me see the grievance as filed but he summarized it for me by saying, “Professor Woolcock feels harassed by your having mentioned his name to the media.”

Thus far, nothing shows that Al-Qloushi has engaged in any expression that constitutes “threat of intimidation or general harassment.” Mentioning a public official’s name in public to address what one believes to be a violation of his rights is not harassment—whether or not the allegations are found to be true. Both Al-Qloushi, by calling attention to what he believes was an abuse of power by a professor, and Professor Woolcock, by defending himself and denying the allegations, have exercised their rights to free speech. Where is the harassment? For further clarification about what constitutes harassment, read the letter from the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education regarding this issue.

In regard to the possible harassment the professor has received from others, the College Republicans attending Foothill College have issued a press release (available on Students for Academic Freedom’s webpage) stating:

After the controversy received significant media exposure, Woolcock allegedly received death threats. The College Republicans attending Foothill College and Al-Qloushi demand that all personal attacks against both Woolcock and Al-Qloushi stop immediately.

Foothill College should not permit the professor to abuse its grievance procedure—especially one reserved for students—and re-characterize Al-Qloushi’s expression as “harassment” in order to attempt to punish him. Of course, if Professor Woolcock has received death threats or experienced real harassment from others, he should pursue his case against those individuals—not Al-Qloushi.