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Academic Freedom and the “Intifada Curriculum,” ACADEME, May-June 2003, at 16.


In early May 2002, the English Department of the University of California, Berkeley, published a description on its Web site of a section of English R1A, a course in basic reading and writing skills. The course was titled "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance." The course description explained, in provocative terms, the context of the Palestinian Intifada and its relationship to Palestinian writing; it closed with the warning that "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." The course description quickly became a hot topic in the national media, with an appearance by the course instructor, a graduate student, on CNN's Hardball. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal decried the "Intifada curriculum" as one symptom of American universities being "beholden to leftist ideologies."

Taken by surprise, the UC Berkeley English department asked the course instructor to revise his description. By July, working with the department, the instructor had published a new description. During the same time, the president of the University of California, Richard Atkinson, asked Robert C. Post, the author of the text that appears below, to review the issues of academic freedom and governance raised by the controversy surrounding the course. Here is Post's August 12, 2002, letter to Atkinson, reprinted with the omission of some footnotes.

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