July 19, 2006
President Joseph L. Subbiondo
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94103
Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile to (415-575-1269)
Dear President Subbiondo:
FIRE is disappointed to write to the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) once again to express our concerns about the state of liberty on your campus. As you know, FIRE wrote to you on May 17, 2006, to protest CIIS’s unfair treatment of Professor Leland van den Daele. Nearly two months have passed and CIIS has not addressed FIRE’s concern about the violation of academic freedom and the resulting chilled expression that threatens the CIIS campus.
As we stated in our May 17 letter, FIRE understands that CIIS is currently investigating van den Daele for assigning an article he authored in 1970 to the students in his Lifespan Development Psychology class. The article, “Preschool Intervention Through Social Learning for Disadvantaged Children,” was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Negro Education, a publication of Howard University. In response to student complaints that the article exhibited “institutional racism,” you issued an e-mail to the entire CIIS community recommending that the Development Psychology program, the Lifespan Development class, and van den Daele himself undergo a review.
FIRE writes today to again protest CIIS’ conclusion that van den Daele’s assignment was inappropriate. Instead of seeking a balanced account of the situation and considering van den Daele’s explanation of his assignment, CIIS responded to student upheaval by hastily deciding that van den Daele’s assignment warranted official action. As a result, CIIS has not only cast van den Daele as guilty of promoting racism in the classroom, but has sent a clear message that professors do not deserve the freedom to assign materials or teach their subject matter as they see fit. Your overreaction to this situation has proven that appeasing unreasonable student outrage outweighs fundamental fairness at CIIS.
CIIS must understand that the denial of academic freedom to van den Daele erodes the rights of its existing students and faculty, degrades the institute’s “spirit of healthy inquiry,” and sends a chilling message to faculty and students across the disciplines that consulting or assigning certain academic articles is unacceptable at CIIS. CIIS has charted a dangerous course in choosing to censor controversial works and publicly castigate their authors rather than promote an atmosphere where different points of view can be addressed and openly, responsibly discussed.
FIRE believes that the issues presented here are at least worthy of response from CIIS. We urge you to affirm the commitment to academic freedom and open discussion that CIIS claims to value. Again, FIRE intends to see this matter through to a just and moral conclusion and we are prepared to use all of our resources to support Professor Leland van den Daele.
Judie Wexler, Academic Vice President
Richard Buggs, Dean of Students
L’esa Guilian, Director of Human Resources
Margy Boyd, Board of Trustees
Tony Chambers, Board of Trustees
Keith Cich, Board of Trustees
Richard Giadina, Board of Trustees
James Herman, Board of Trustees
Lynne Kaufman, Board of Trustees
Kishore Kripalani, Board of Trustees
John Paul Lenney Board of Trustees
Simmy Makhijani, Board of Trustees
Tamar March, Board of Trustees
Elizabeth McCormack, Board of Trustees
Ted Nordquist, Board of Trustees
Lael O’Leary, Board of Trustees
Ricki Pollycove, Board of Trustees
Simone Reagor, Board of Trustees
James Ryan, Board of Trustees
Stuart Sovatsky, Board of Trustees
Prasad Vepa, Board of Trustees
Zeppelin Wong, Board of Trustees
Ron Wu, Board of Trustees
Bina Chaudhuri, Board of Trustees