Statement by Members of the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies (ELTS) and the Program in Digital Humanities on the University’s Failure to Protect Student Protestors

Published: May 6, 2024

As faculty in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies and the Program in Digital Humanities, we are writing to condemn the unconscionable attacks on our students, staff, and faculty between April 30th-May 2nd and to hold the university accountable for failing to protect its community. We believe that the fundamental mission of the public university has been compromised and that UCLA’s leadership has failed to uphold the basic principles of free speech, freedom to express dissent, and freedom of assembly. The faculty are appalled by the disconnect between the practices of the university administration (which passively countenanced the actions of a violent mob, but then used a militarized police force against our own students the next day) and the very values that we — as humanities faculty — teach to our students in the classroom. These values are grounded in diversity, openness, respect, inclusion, dignity, and human rights. The administration failed the UCLA community in a number of ways: It failed to protect its students, staff, and faculty; the general tone and language of the official communications stigmatized the diverse group of protestors; it was clearly not attentive to the mistakes made at other institutions earlier in the week; its failures and shortcomings were compounded by the appallingly inadequate campus security response (now under official investigation) and by having recourse to outside security forces known to be hostile to public universities. 

As such, we demand the following:

  1. Full accountability, starting with an investigation of the actions of the university’s senior leadership, for its failure to protect students, staff, and faculty on April 30th/May 1st and for the actions on May 1st/2nd in which peacefully protesting students, staff, and faculty were violently removed from campus by the police.  
  2. That the participants in the violent mob who attacked members of our campus community be held accountable, investigated, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 
  3. A timely, clear, and concrete plan to protect students, staff, and faculty from future assaults on our university and on the constitutionally enshrined right to free expression and assembly. This needs to include a principled, transparent, and accountable approach to the use of police on campus. 
  4. That no students, staff, or faculty be punished or retaliated against by the university for being arrested on May 1st/2nd or for participating in peaceful protest. We demand dropping all legal and disciplinary charges against students who were peacefully protesting. 
  5. That the university refuse to tolerate all forms of violence and brutalization that aim to chill, undermine, or intimidate constitutionally protected speech. 
  6. That the university support meaningful dialogue across differences, engage student protesters in sincere conversations, take their demands for disclosure and divestment seriously, and build toward an inclusive community grounded in transparency and accountability. 
  7. That the university support students, staff, and faculty in developing approaches to pedagogy grounded in an ethic of care and aimed at fostering healthy communities (in the realms of both mental and physical health). This will need to include leniency, flexibility, and understanding.  

Signatories (listed in alphabetical order):

Kimberly Ball, Lecturer, ELTS
Munia Bhaumik, Affiliated Faculty in Digital Humanities
Cisca Brier, Lecturer, ELTS
Lia Brozgal, Professor, ELTS
Massimo Ciavolella, Distinguished Professor, ELTS
Églantine Colon, Lecturer, ELTS
Laurence Denié-Higney, Senior Lecturer, ELTS
Elsa Duval, Lecturer, ELTS
Thomas Harrison, Vice Chair of Undergraduate Studies and Professor, ELTS
Chris Johanson, Associate Professor and Chair, DH
Johanna Karlsson, Lecturer, ELTS
David Kim, Professor, ELTS
Wendy Perla Kurtz, Lecturer & Project Scientist, Program in Digital Humanities
Claire Lavagnino, Lecturer, ELTS
Arne Lunde, Associate Professor, ELTS
Alain Mabanckou, Professor, ELTS
John McCumber, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, ELTS
Kalani Michell, Assistant Professor, ELTS
Laure Murat, Distinguished Professor, ELTS
Todd Presner, Chair and Professor, ELTS and DH
Robert Rushing, Professor, ELTS
Ashley Sanders, Vice Chair of Digital Humanities
Magda Tarnawska Senel, Lecturer, ELTS
Dominic Thomas, Madeleine Letessier Professor, ELTS
Cara Tovey, Lecturer, ELTS
Patrick Wen, Lecturer, ELTS
Yasemin Yildiz, Associate Professor, ELTS
Maite Zubiaurre, Professor, ELTS and Spanish and Portuguese