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June 8, 2017 1:10 pm

Fresno State Administration Rejects Accusation That Jewish Faculty Influenced Decision to Terminate Search for New Middle East Studies Professor

avatar by Rachel Frommer

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California State University, Fresno. Photo: fresnostate.edu.

California State University-Fresno (Fresno State) administrators have vigorously denied a faculty member’s accusation that his Jewish peers pressured the administration into terminating the search for a new Middle East studies professor.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro released a video statement on Wednesday stating the “allegation that the search was cancelled because of pressure from anyone is untrue.”

Allegations have been raised by some in the Fresno State community that Jewish faculty directly contacted members of the search committee to speak against the four finalists in the effort to fill the new Edward Said Professorship position.

Those behind the accusations include Joe Parks, an education professor who served as the Equal Employment Opportunities representative on the search committee, who reportedly said that “when the finalists came to campus, the Jewish faculty complained” — because the contenders “happened to be Middle Eastern in nature.”

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The university “caved” to Jewish demands, said Parks.

The now-former director of Fresno State’s Middle East studies program, Vida Samiian, has resigned entirely from the university in protest.

President Castro said in his statement the search has been rescheduled for next year, and was postponed because of two academic policy violations, including discovery that an “unauthorized party was participating in the search committees deliberations.” The second violation was related to the manner in which the search committee was formed.

“Let me repeat, no university official was pressured by any individual or group to cancel the search based on candidates’ ethnic background or political point of view,” Castro asserted.

Jewish Voice for Peace — the organization that honored convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at their national gathering in April — has launched a petition condemning the cancellation of the search as an “action [that] appears to be based on a false and discriminatory presumption that a focus on Palestine in a Middle Eastern Studies department would somehow negatively impact the ‘Jewish community.'”

Academics who had signed the petition as of Wednesday included Hatem Bazian, co-founder of Students for Justice in PalestineDavid Palumbo-Liu, who has suggested audiences read websites described as “openly support[ing] and encourag[ing] terrorism against Jews” to glean a balanced media view on Israel; and Steven Salaita, fired in 2014 from an academic position after exposure of his antisemitic tweets.

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