Statement of Solidarity

Submitted by Alexandra Colley Dusablon on

March 4, 2022

The Diversity Committee of the Department of History at the University of Washington stands in solidarity with Liora Halperin and other colleagues as they face threats to their work for views they have expressed on Israel and Palestine. We reject all attempts to coerce our colleagues to retract their views or refrain from expressing them. We are alarmed that UW’s conciliation of Israel Studies donor Becky Benaroya has harmed our colleagues and could harm future faculty, staff, and students. We ask UW to establish a new set of practices in donor relations to ensure that such harm does not happen again.

We are disturbed by UW’s highly unusual offer to return $5 million to Mrs. Benaroya, who endowed the chair in Israel Studies held until recently by Professor Halperin. When the Benaroya Fund was first established in 2016, UW administrators praised its potential to “establish the Jackson School as a leader in Israel Studies,” “expand the breadth of our curriculum,” and “facilitate scholarly interchange.” Indeed, Professor Halperin has used the Benaroya Fund to bring guest speakers to UW attracting public audiences in the hundreds, offer new classes that complement and develop our curriculum, support graduate students’ research, and hire an accomplished Israeli legal scholar as a postdoctoral fellow—as well as to publish her own book, The Oldest Guard. UW’s choice to facilitate Mrs. Benaroya’s withdrawal of support has therefore undermined these highly successful and renowned academic endeavors, giving undue influence to a donor’s political views in contravention of the donation’s scholarly mission. We are particularly alarmed that this withdrawal of support was the culmination of a series of meetings that UW compelled Professor Halperin to attend with Mrs. Benaroya and a representative from an external organization.

Professor Halperin is not the only member of the History faculty to face donor pressure for her views on Israel and Palestine: our History colleague Devin Naar has seen the discontinuation of some donor funding to the Sephardic Studies program he helms. Although some donors, including a foundation, have defended him, others launched a campaign of denunciation against him. Since 2011, Professor Naar has used those kinds of donations to build one of the leading programs in the world for the study of Sephardic Jewish history and the endangered language Ladino.

We recognize that Professor Halperin and Professor Naar have also received support from UW, including rebuttals to attempts to censor them and some preliminary gestures toward restoring Professor Halperin’s chair and funding. But UW programs funded by private donors must not face potential elimination or unstable contingent funding because of a donor’s political demands. This chilling precedent hampers UW scholars’ work and is harmful to those who are most reliant on stable, dedicated program funds: graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff.

Academic freedom does not only mean permitting scholars to express opinions without institutional reprimands. It also means protecting the ability of faculty, staff, and students to conduct their work on the terms by which they were appointed and without officially sanctioned interference.

Accordingly, we ask that UW recognizes the harm it has done in this instance by choosing to return Mrs. Benaroya’s donation. Then, we ask that UW adopt a publicly defined system of regulations with regard to donor funding of programs that protect the right of faculty, staff, and students to work with the resources committed to them when they joined UW. These regulations must also explicitly prevent donors and external organizations from attempting to interfere in a program’s funding and activities once it is established.

March 19, 2021

The History Department Diversity Committee condemns the recent murders that took place in Atlanta, claiming the lives of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

We also stand in solidarity with members of the Asian-American, Pacific-Islander American (AAPI) and Asian diaspora communities. Anti-Asian racism has deep roots in our country, as well as in our home city of Seattle. People of Asian descent have confronted bigotry, exclusionary policies, forced removal, and violence. Distressingly, the past year has witnessed a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, undoubtedly exacerbated by the circulation of xenophobic political rhetoric. Many in our UW community and across the nation have lived in fear for their own safety, as well as that of their loved ones.

The Diversity Committee fully supports AAPI and Asian students, staff, and faculty during these challenging times. Feel free to share the following resources:

  • APISAA Therapist Directory
  • API Chaya Seattle: A community-based organization supporting survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking and working to educate and mobilize South Asian, Asian, Pacific Islander, and all immigrant communities to end exploitation.
  • King County Hate and Bias Incident Survey & COVID19 Community Response Alliance: The COVID19 Community Response Alliance is a multi-racial, ethnic, and language coalition of 23 grassroots, community organizations that empowers our communities and advocates for our communities by providing necessary rent and food assistance and community support, rejecting and standing against bias, discrimination, and hate crimes. 
  • Asian Languages Crisis line—
    • Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, for a referral. (More than 150 languages are offered)
    • Call 1-877-990-8585, Asian LifeNet Hotline (24 hours). (Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Fujianese are offered)
  • UW SafecampusCall SafeCampus anytime to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others.
  • UW Bias Incident Reporting: Report all incidents of bias or suspected bias using the UW's bias reporting tool, which was created in partnership with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, the Office of Student Life and the president's Race & Equity Initiative.
  • UW Counseling Center: The UW Counseling Center provides a safe environment to help students explore the challenges of life and learning through counseling, outreach, preventive programming, advocacy, and consultation. 
  • My SSP is a service that provides UW students access to real-time, confidential mental health and crisis intervention support, available 24/7 and in multiple languages. There are several ways students can connect to My SSP: call 1.866.743.7732. (If calling from outside the US or Canada, dial 001.416.380.6578.) or chat online with a My SSP counselor on the My SSP website.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Diversity Committee ( with any questions or concerns.

June 8, 2020

The Department of History is committed to providing accommodations, especially to Black graduate and undergraduate students as well as other students directly impacted by the racialized crises of our current moment. Following on College of Arts & Sciences Dean Bob Stacey's recommendations (6/7/20), we also urge other units to design meaningful and effective provisions to support the most affected students during this time of emergency.

Today, so many people in our nation are courageously and peacefully standing against white supremacy and white violence. At the same time, this is a time of grief and of horror at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and at the murders of the many other Black Americans who have died unjustly at the hands of police and white supremacists. It is a time of uncertainty, and of fear, as some governmental authorities react to peaceful protest with more violence.

The Department of History Diversity Committee strongly supports the Black Lives Matter movement. We join in solidarity with the UW Black Student Union and other UW groups mobilizing to end structural racism.


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