To Ken Starr, President, Baylor University:
The Seriously Free Speech Committee (Vancouver) is mandated to defend freedom of speech specifically around issues pertaining to Israel and Palestine. Accordingly, we write to protest your harassment and internal investigation of tenured professor Dr. Marc Ellis, an internationally known scholar, liberation theologian, popular teacher at Baylor and important voice in the U.S. for democratic rights. Dr. Ellis’s Center for American and Jewish Studies, which you have closed, was and should continue to be, a significant venue for studying the history, contributions, and current conditions of the original “people of the book”. His courses, which you have canceled as of Fall 2011, bring to Baylor students a necessary complement to their Christian education. That cancellation deprives them of a component in the intellectual engagement and moral commitment motivating their presence at a Christian institution of higher education.
Given the absence of specific charges of the very few offenses for which a tenured professor can be fired from Baylor, your campaign against Dr. Ellis takes on the character of an attempt to silence and punish a teacher for his controversial political views, in this case views on Israeli policies regarding Palestine. Your persecution of Dr. Ellis reflects badly on a university that prides itself on “excellence in teaching and research, in scholarship and publication, and in service to the community, both local and global” (Mission Statement). Your online publicity vaunts the university’s ability to provide “top academic experience”, “outstanding faculty”, “dynamic campus life”, “outstanding array of educational opportunities”. All of this you have in Dr. Ellis, and you jeopardize it in your attempts to dismiss him because of views unpopular with the most conservative wing of American Jewry.
Along with the several thousands who have signed a petition in support of Dr. Ellis, SFSC calls for an end to your persecution of this outstanding scholar and teacher, and the restoration of your university to its proper educational function.
Sheila Delany for Seriously Free Speech Committee
Emerita, Simon Fraser University