Defend Academic Freedom! Reinstate Dr. Sang Hea Kil!

Original online here.

Defend Academic Freedom! Reinstate Dr. Sang Hea Kil!


May 30, 2024

Petition to

President, San Jose State University Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson

Why this petition matters

Started by Brian Dolber

Media Inquiries

President Teniente-Matson,

We write to you today to condemn in the strongest terms possible your administration’s decision to temporarily suspend Dr. Sang Hea Kil, Professor of Justice Studies and former co-chair of the Palestinian Arab and Muslim (PAM) Caucus. In our opinion, the decision to suspend Dr. Kil is a clear retaliation against her for practicing her constitutional rights of protest, freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom to associate. This decision comes as Dr. Kil has been supporting her students, mostly Muslim and marginalized students, in their organizing at San Jose State University.

On May 24, 2024, Senior Associate Vice President Joanne Wright emailed Dr. Kil a letter accusing her of violating university policies due to “unprofessional and exploitative” conduct toward students, leading them to violate university policies and “engaging in harassing and offensive conduct and comments directed towards colleagues individually and as a group.” Not only has your administration not provided any evidence to Dr. Kil for these claims, but it has never addressed or remedied its previous harassment of Dr. Kil and all student protestors by spraying unsafe water over them during the SJSU encampment. 

Furthermore, we believe that your administration’s baseless accusations of Dr. Kil exercising undue influence on students undermines their agency in making demands and taking action, separating her from supporting her students’ fight against the genocide in Gaza at SJSU. Moreover, by not following the due process for such an investigation, SJSU administration is in direct violation of CFA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement regarding its treatment of its faculty. Finally, we are concerned that SJSU is singling Dr. Kil out for her activism on Palestine and that this might be due to possiblean anti-Arab and anti-Islam bias of your administration. 

Dr. Kil’s research is an example of how academic freedoms and First Amendment rights are fundamental to our institution’s mission. Her groundbreaking work, recognized with prestigious awards such as the 2021 Outstanding Academic Title from Choice and the 2019 Top Paper Award from the International Communication Association, one of the largest academic associations in the Communication Discipline, underscores the importance of preserving her academic freedom. Dr. Kil’s contributions extend beyond academia; they speak to the heart of democratic principles and the pursuit of knowledge without fear of censorship or reprisal. As a scholar committed to social justice and academic inquiry, Dr. Kil’s reinstatement is not only a matter of justice but also essential for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and scholarly integrity that ought to define the CSU.

We demand Dr. Kil’s full reinstatement, including her summer courses and grants., and We call on Senior Associate Vice President Joanne Wright to take all necessary steps to reverse Dr. Kil’s suspension. We also demand that Dr. Kil is protected from any further retaliation by university administrators and that she be compensated for her emotional distress and wasted labor fighting this injustice. Furthermore, we insist that SJSU (and other CSU campuses) refrain from taking any further actions against students or faculty who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Decision Makers

  • Dr. Cynthia Teniente-MatsonPresident, San Jose State University

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