University of California, Santa Barbara: Professor Investigated for Sending E-Mail to Class


University of California, Santa Barbara

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

UCSB subjected Professor William Robinson to a months-long investigation after he sent the students in his Sociology of Globalization class an e-mail comparing the Nazi treatment of Jews with Israel's actions towards Palestinians. Although students were not required to read, discuss, or agree with the content of Robinson's e-mail, two students filed formal complaints. The resulting outside pressure threatened Robinson's academic freedom and free speech. FIRE argued that the initial assessment of the students' claims should have led to immediate dismissal of the complaint since the single e-mail was both protected expression and relevant to the course. The investigating committee recommended dismissing the case, but the matter remained in UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang's hands for several weeks. Soon after FIRE and other groups wrote Chancellor Yang, the charges against Robinson were dropped.