University of California, Berkeley offers extra credit to students who participate in pro-Palestinian protests on campus or push their local California district representative to criticize Israeli “occupation.”
An email received by students in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the university on Tuesday detailed the process, writing, "We're offering a field trip and/or extra credit opportunity: (1) Students can attend the national student walkout tomorrow against the settler-colonial occupation of Gaza (info attached below) OR (2) Students can watch a short documentary on Palestine and call/email your local California representative."
“Doing so will either count as a field trip or an extra five points on the field trip category of your grade. Section 101/102 students can e-mail me to let me know which option they choose, and a screenshot/photo with proof of their participation. Sections 103/104 can do the same.”
In the email, sent by the university’s lecturer Victoria Hyun in her course titled "Asian American Communities and Race Relations,” Hyun added her lecture would discuss “Palestinian history in relation to class concepts like colonialism, imperialism, and Third World solidarity.”
Students were outraged after receiving the email. “I couldn’t believe it was real,” one of them told Ynetnews. “They’re asking us to justify the horrible violence acted against civilians and children, and receive credit for that? It’s unimaginable.”
A spokesperson for UC Berkley responded, “As soon as the administration was made aware of the assignment it moved quickly to ensure that it would be changed. The situation has been remedied, the assignment has been changed and there are now a number of options for extra credit, not just one. Students can now attend any local event they wish — such as a book talk or a panel discussion----related to the course’s subject, including the protest… or they can watch any documentary they wish about the Middle East.”
According to the spokesperson, these local events also include “pro-Israel events, rallies, vigils, demonstrations or protests,” adding that “What I can say is that, generally speaking, the university responds quickly to violations of policy and is committed to imposing appropriate consequences when policy is violated.”
Hyun is obviously not alone: On Wednesday TA Alan Moore from Public Policy Candidate at UC Berkeley has canceled his class in support of protest against Israel, encouraging students to attend.
Numerous confrontations on campuses
UC Berkeley isn’t the first university to offer its students credit for participating in pro-Palestinian events in which Israel is blamed for war crimes and Hamas’ attack against the country.
Two weeks ago, a professor at the University of Virginia offered additional credits to students who participated in a discussion on how to "stand in solidarity with Palestinians resisting occupation." Even before the war, many U.S. universities were known to give credit for anti-Israel activities on their campuses.
The City University of New York (CUNY) offered credit to students who watched the pro-Palestinian film Farha in a university event. Following a wave of criticism, the event was eventually canceled, and the academic office that proposed it was closed.
The war in Israel has sparked tensions and numerous confrontations on campuses across the United States. It was recently revealed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is working to shut down student organizations standing behind the pro-Palestinian protests on campuses in the state and is considering suspending students and firing administrators and faculty who facilitated them.
In a letter he sent to the network of public academic institutions in Florida, including 12 universities and 28 colleges, it was written these organizations "support the terrorist organization Hamas, which launched an unprovoked attack on Israel - among those killed were babies, women, and elderly."
Loosing significant revenues and major donors
Columbia University in New York announced that it is canceling its annual fundraising event for the first time in history due to the tense atmosphere on campus following the war in Israel and the situation in Gaza. After careful consideration and consultation with University and alumni leadership, we decided that this is not the appropriate time to move forward,” the university said in a statement.
At least two other prestigious American universities have lost significant revenues and major donors in the past week as a result of the growing criticism of their responses to the war and protests on their campuses.
The Huntsman family, longtime supporters of the University of Pennsylvania who previously contributed at least $50 million to its Wharton business school, announced they would cease donations due to the institution's "silence" regarding Hamas’ attack against Israel.
The family joined billionaire Mark Rowan, who declared a similar move. The Wexner Foundation, the Ofer family, and Kenneth Griffin - all known donors of Harvard - have also decided to sever ties with the university following what they called a “dismal failure" to condemn Hamas.
Griffin donated $300 million to Harvard in 2023, and the Wexner Foundation sent a number of Israeli students to leadership programs within the institution for about 35 years. Eitan and Batia Ofer resigned from the management board of the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and withdrew their expected donation worth millions of dollars.