As hundreds of Cal State Long Beach students have participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus, university administrators have warned faculty not to cancel classes so students can attend or offer extra credit for their participation in the rallies.

Faculty should not “coerce students into participation” in any protests, and they are “prohibited from requiring or promoting student attendance at any events unless such participation directly contributes to the academic objectives of the course,” the university’s provost and associate vice president of faculty affairs said in an email to faculty on May 1.

The warning came as students were planning a May 2 demonstration where nearly 1,000 people marched through campus and spent hours rallying outside of Brotman Hall. Speakers there demanded the university support a ceasefire in Gaza, acknowledge Israel’s actions as genocide and divest from companies with ties to Israel or weapons manufacturers profiting off the war sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

CSULB’s faculty union objected to the provost’s email, calling it “an attempt to intimidate and  bully students and faculty.”

CSULB student Mallory Bacon waves a Palestinian flag with the campus’ iconic Pyramid in the background on Thursday, May 2, 2024. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

“It is uncommon for faculty to even communicate with students about protest movements let alone cancel a class, hardly a possibility worth an email to the entire faculty body,” CSULB’s chapter of the California Faculty Association said in a statement.

CSULB’s chief communications officer, Jeffrey Cook, said the provost’s email was “an effort to proactively share information with our faculty on issues that sometimes arise on college campuses.”

It’s unclear if any faculty are offering extra credit or canceling classes to support the protests.

Cook said he was aware of one instance when the campus administration had a conversation with a faculty member “about the prospect of canceling a class to enable student participation,” something that’s prohibited, according to the provost’s email, if the instructor is doing so “as a demonstration of the faculty member’s support for a particular social or political movement.”

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At least some CSULB staff supported the May 2 demonstration. A group calling itself Faculty for Justice in Palestine @ Cal State Long Beach called for instructors to excuse absences for students attending the protest and show up to support it themselves.

CSULB’s faculty union said communications about the protests from CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and other administrators “have been exclusively focused on portraying students and faculty organizing on behalf of Palestinians as engaging in behavior and actions that are uncollegial, unbecoming of University community and against the rules.”

In a recent email condemning fliers posted on campus with pictures of Jewish students on them, Conoley said, “It is right to speak out against injustice. It’s right to be on the side of peace,” and she urged the campus to focus on “the human experience of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel,” but, she said, the fliers crossed a line “into threatening behavior that wreaks of antisemitism.”

The union said it condemns both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“We recognize that our current political climate does not make it easy or comfortable to stand both for justice in Palestine, and also to oppose antisemitism, and yet we know that we must,” the statement said.

Another rally in support of Palestine was scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, at 12 p.m. in CSULB’s central quad.

This article was updated to clarify the faculty union was not specifically addressing Conoley’s email condemning the fliers.

Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.