Support Professor Randa Jarrar!

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The Campus Antifascist Network (CAN) condemns in the strongest possible terms the campaign of slander and harassment directed at Randa Jarrar, an accomplished creative writer and Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fresno, over her personal tweets.  The University Administration’s claim that Professor Jarrar’s comments were “beyond free speech” are de facto violations of her rights to free speech and academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors has argued unequivocally that private utterances are protected speech for all University faculty.  Fresno State has already admitted that Professor Jarrar’s comments were private and not on behalf of the University. Any finding of fault against Professor Jarrar would be a violation of her academic and constitutionally protected rights.

We demand that the University Administration support Prof. Jarrar’s personal freedom of speech when she issued valid positions regarding former First Lady Barbara Bush’s callous and racist comments about victims of the US invasion of Iraq (“Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”) and her remarks about the squalid living conditions of mostly African-American victims of Hurricane Katrina who were housed in the Astrodome (“so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them”).  Both of these statements are examples of Barbara Bush’s racism towards African-Americans and Iraqi civilians, groups that continue to be victims of US domestic and foreign policies.

We also note that Professor Jarrar is a woman of color, of Arab descent, and thus holds an underrepresented and vulnerable position  in academia.The attacks on Prof. Jarrar have included misogynistic and racist comments about her appearance, her body type, and her religious and ethnic identity These attacks are now multiplying on social media as the story of her tweets circulates in the right-wing and mainstream media. The Administration has a responsibility to stand against rather than contribute to the campaign of hate to which Prof. Jarrar is being subjected as a woman of color.

Finally, we urge the Administration to consider the dangerous and far-reaching precedent it would set should you find that the free speech rights of tenured faculty do not extend to personally expressed views that some perceive to be “disrespectful.” Such a vague and clearly un-academic standard for stripping the rights of tenured faculty can continue to be wielded as a tool of political repression wherever and whenever university administrators prove themselves unwilling to defend their employees. Rest assured, refusing to defend the rights of Professor Jarrar now will only accelerate the assault on free speech and academic freedom on your campus and on campuses around the country.

We therefore call on the Fresno State Administration to provide full support for Prof. Jarrar and to affirm its commitment to faculty members’ free speech rights.  We also call on the University to cease and desist from any public or non-public efforts to intimidate, silence or otherwise interfere with her professional work, and indeed to extend support to Prof. Jarrar as she is subjected to a racist and sexist smear campaign fomented by the right-wing media.



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