Course Description No Longer Warns Conservative Minds

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The English Department released a revised description last week for a controversial course on Palestinian literature.

Taught by campus activist and graduate student Snehal Shingavi, the course description for the English R1A class, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance," caused nationwide controversy in May for urging "conservative thinkers" to "seek other sections" in the course description.

Shortly after the controversy erupted, the university instructed the English department to remove the line.

"It is not appropriate for an academic class to discourage or exclude anyone from attending on political grounds," Chancellor Robert Berdahl said in a May interview with The Daily Californian. "That is very objectionable. The discourse cannot be constrained by the political perspective of an instructor."

Officials from English department also plan to regularly observe the class to ensure fairness to all students.

Shingavi, a member of the Stop the War Coalition, and Students for Justice in Palestine confirmed yesterday that the new description was released last week, but declined to comment further.

The English department and Shingavi reworked the course description to satisfy department and university policies.

Some university officials hold the original description violated the university's Faculty Code of Conduct, which prohibits instructor "discrimination ... against a student on political grounds."

Though the reworked description does not discourage students based on their politics, the reading material and much of the course description remains the same.

"It was a matter of the chair and the GSI working out the balance of the course description," said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gillmore.

Some of the language was toned down in the new description. The original said the state of Israel has "displaced, maimed and killed millions of people."

In the new description, "millions" was changed to "many."

The course description's original wording was the result of a lack in "oversight," said a statement from the English department.

The department also advises students of their "right to express themselves openly and to have their work evaluated free of discrimination or harassment," the statement said.


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