Statement of Undersigned Faculty in UCLA’s Department of Comparative Literature on the University’s Response to Campus Protests

Published: May 8, 2024

We, the undersigned faculty in UCLA’s Department of Comparative Literature, write to express our grave concern over how the university’s administration has responded to the Palestine Solidarity Encampment and protests concerning Israel’s war in Gaza. Because of the administration’s egregious missteps, our students and colleagues were subject to shocking violence by outsiders and arrest by the police, and they had their free speech and assembly rights abrogated. A university campus must be able to serve as a site of non-violent political expression and contestation, even and especially on issues considered controversial. The university has not only failed to protect those rights of free expression; it has actively hindered them, rendered our students and colleagues vulnerable to assault and arrest, and breached the trust of the campus community.

After the events of recent days, we believe the university will only be able to move forward by committing to—and following through on—the following principles:

  1. Transparency: We need a full and honest accounting of all decisions surrounding the university’s response to the encampment, including the failure to protect students, staff, and faculty from attacks by a gang of non-affiliated thugs and the decision, just twenty-four hours later, to call in city, county, and state police to violently dismantle the encampment and arrest protestors.
  2. Accountability: Once we have a clear picture of the decisions that led to last week’s failures, there must be accountability. Administrators, including those at the highest levels of responsibility, and others responsible for the campus response to the protests must face serious consequences.
  3. Amnesty: Those members of the UCLA community who have been arrested while exercising their first amendment rights to political expression must not suffer legal consequences or sanction by the university. UCLA must commit to assisting students in legal jeopardy and helping cover medical bills that result from the violence undergone by protestors.
  4. Dialogue: The campus must commit to meaningful dialogue. Such dialogue must include good-faith negotiations with the protestors regarding their demands for financial transparency and divestment from corporations involved in weapons production and in the war on Gaza. Such dialogue must also seek to be inclusive and to recognize the many perspectives that students, staff, and faculty bring to these highly-charged questions. The campus must recommit to confronting all forms of prejudice that hinder attempts at dialogue and reconciliation, including, but not limited to, antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, and sexism.

As Comparative Literature faculty at UCLA, we stand by our students and colleagues and support their right to engage in peaceful political protest on our campus. We are eager to continue with our commitments as educators and scholars, but in order to move forward after the terrible events of the last weeks, the campus must commit to the principles outlined here and must hold responsible parties on campus accountable.

Michael Rothberg, Professor and Chair
Nouri Gana, Professor
Katherine King, Professor Emerita
Tamara Levitz, Professor
Aamir Mufti, Professor
Anjali Prabhu, Professor
Stephanie Bosch Santana, Assistant Professor
Shu-mei Shih, Professor
Zrinka Stahuljak, Professor