Stop the termination of Chatterji and Shapiro at CIIS

For Immediate Release
Jessica Hsu | | 415.200.7862
Eva Goodwin | | 415.846.5123          The Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen | | 415.956.1360

Graduate Students Pursue Legal Action Against California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS)

Following months of unsuccessful negotiations with school administrators to safeguard their education

(San Francisco, October 25, 2011)– Thirty-eight students out of department of fifty have retained the Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen to pursue legal action against the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) following the suspension of two core faculty of the Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) Department, Chair Richard Shapiro and Professor Angana Chatterji. These students believe the investigation into Chatterji and Shapiro has been in violation of institutional due process and protocols and are raising questions regarding the authority and ethics of particular administrators. The matter is currently before a Faculty Hearing Board, which is slated to convene later this week.

“Our initial analysis leads us to believe there to be serious violations of student rights,” states Sorgen, who has sent multiple letters to the Institute requesting a meeting with CIIS counsel and Administration since August 3, but this meeting has yet to materialize. The Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen litigates matters pertaining to civil rights and education at federal and state levels, and one of their specializations is student rights.

The proceedings at CIIS have thrown Anthropology students’ lives and education into uncertainty, resulting in detrimental impacts on their physical and emotional well-being. Many have disenrolled and all have struggled to piece together their lives with the disruption and damage to academic studies and community-based advocacy work; some are scrambling for livelihoods without financial aid, while international students had to choose between paying for unwanted classes and losing their student visas. The situation has been exacerbated by what they strongly feel has been mistreatment by CIIS and the circulation of lies by Administration to justify the recent actions taken against core Anthropology faculty and a majority of students. Many students believe administrative actions have been inconsistent in dealing with student complaints. In late April 2011, a grievance was filed against a part-time faculty by 36 students, and students have received no formal report regarding their complaint to date; they suspect the investigation into the part-time faculty was used as a façade to extract information from students to build a case for what they understand as a “witch hunt” leading to the suspension of the two professors.

Unnamed students who participated in the  investigation have stated it is not their intent to ‘bring down’ the department, but have struggled to have their concerns and issues heard preceding the investigation. Other students demanding the reinstatement of faculty are concerned  that  the Administration is using student concerns as fuel to dismantle the department. The Student Handbook outlines a formal grievance procedure, and many students demanding  Chatterji and Shapiro’s reinstatement  do not understand why it has been bypassed, nor why the two faculty have been banned from teaching and advising during these proceedings. Moreover, many communications by the Academic Vice President (AVP) and Dean of Students (DoS) appear to be contradictory around the suspension and the investigation.

Many students  are disturbed that the proceedings seem in opposition to all institutional and faculty-led review mechanisms, which indicate high student satisfaction rates and a well-functioning department, including the promotion Chatterji received in 2009 (with outstanding commendations) and the renewal of Shapiro’s contract on April 1, 2011. For more than three months, students have repeatedly requested accountability and clarifications from CIIS Administration around the proceedings toward safeguarding their education and well-being. They say that their complaints, questions, and requests for meetings, starting 6/28, did not result in a collective meeting with Administration until 8/26. Students were disappointed that this meeting did not address their needs satisfactorily, and on September 8, 39 students signed a symbolic no-confidence motion against the DoS and the AVP, who also holds the titles of Interim Anthropology Department Chair, Dean of Faculty, Chief Academic Officer and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.

The Academic Vice President has recommended termination of Chatterji and Shapiro to the Hearing Board, and students now believe that their dismissal was the objective of particular administrators preceding May, when the AVP claims to have initiated the investigation.  A worker in higher administration has just placed on record a ten-page statement, which has been submitted to the Faculty Hearing Board.  The statement describes events that led to the worker’s understanding that the Dean of Students sought to instigate an investigation targeting Professors Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji and the Anthropology Department, beginning in March 2011, and that she requested and obtained permission from the AVP in April 2011 to do so.  Further, the statement details tactics of the ‘investigation’ that the worker witnessed and experienced, including the coercive solicitation of student complaints through promises of ‘protection’ and compensation for those willing to participate, and intimidation for those unwilling (to participate.) This statement is in contradiction to CIIS Administration’s October 14  ‘fact’ sheet which states: “It was not proactively initiated by the CIIS Administration.”

“We just learned about this employee statement indicating that Dean of Students initiated this investigation proactively in the Spring, confirming what students suspected. We are outraged and appalled to hear about the coercive solicitation of student complaints– how is this ‘research’ or ethical? The ways in which administrators continue to broadcast ‘facts’ in disregard of what has already been communicated to students is a gross betrayal of student trust in the administrative procedure and administration claims of good faith,” said Tanisha Payton, an SCA doctoral student.

Elizabeth J. Pimentel, an MA student, adds, “Chatterji and Shapiro were tried, judged and sentenced before they could ever respond to allegations made against them. Then they were told not to speak of it, and asked to be available for the remainder of the investigation, making Chatterji’s human rights work in Indian-administered Kashmir impossible. We are extremely concerned for communities and those struggling for justice in Kashmir.”

The latest actions by the Administration also include a publicly circulated ‘fact’ sheet dated 10/14 on the investigation of the Anthropology Department which students can refute point-by-point based on their interactions and documented exchanges with CIIS Administrators. Students perceive their mistreatment by CIIS as part of a trend in higher education toward the consolidation of autocratic administrative power and the dissipation of faculty and student rights. The Institute does not have a tenure system, nor does it have a faculty, student or staff union. Professor Shapiro has been at the Institute for 25 years, and Professor Chatterji has been there for 14 years. Both have been vocal advocates for collaborative governance and tenure.

The Department’s curriculum prioritizes social justice and advocacy research and is connected to community organizations and human rights activists around the world. “My work this summer was in support of refugee rights in Burma, and I had to cut my trip short because of the suspension of my advisor,” stated Jen Cordaro, another doctoral student in the Anthropology Department. “This targeting of our faculty has wide-reaching repercussions on marginalized communities around the world– these damages are immeasurable.”

On October 15, 40+ SCA students and supporters of Chatterji and Shapiro staged a rally at CIIS during a Board of Trustees meeting. The  rally had multiple demands, including: 1) the immediate reinstatement of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro to full faculty status, 2)  the immediate addressal of outstanding student grievances against the professors, but that such grievances be dealt with through the established institutional procedures, 3) the empowerment of CIIS senior faculty to constitute a body to investigate the role of the President, the AVP, and Dean of Students in the actions against the Anthropology faculty and their students and to determine appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of the named administrators.

On the day of the rally, MA student Safiya Bird-Whitten broke a 13-day fast she had undertaken in “protest of what feels like is the demonization of two professors who have helped [her] believe that [she] indeed [has] the capacity to be influential, who have challenged [her] more intellectually than [she has] ever been challenged before.”

Professors Chatterji and Shapiro have received an outpouring of support from academics, community organizations, and activist networks, including Asia Human Rights Commission, Jammu Kashmir Civil Society Coalition, and from organizations like the publishing group Verso who recently released the book called Kashmir: The Case for Freedom. Chatterji is a contributor alongside Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali.

Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro work with social justice issues and disenfranchised communities. Chatterji is internationally renowned for her work as co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK), and currently has sedition charges against her for her research into mass graves in the region. Shapiro, her life partner, was banned from Indian in November 2010 in connection with her work. Shapiro, also the Department Chair, is known for his anti-racist, anti-Islamphobic, and alliance building work.

For more information:

Maruti Suzuki strike over

Maruti Suzuki and workers reach agreement


(article by Kristyne Peter)

7000 Suzuki workers return to work after an intense and violent 14-day struggle that ends at the country’s largest car maker.

INDIA: Amid mounting international pressure, a tripartite agreement was reached today between Maruti Suzuki management, workers, and senior officials of the Haryana government ending an intense 14-day struggle that brought the Suzuki production to a crawl and revealed an unprecedented show of worker strength and solidarity.

Workers at Maruti Suzuki went on strike on October 7 after the company broke a September 30 agreement to recognize the union, honour basic labour rights, and reinstate contract workers who had gone on strike in solidarity with permanent workers during a previous struggle. Workers at Suzuki Powertrain India and Suzuki Motorcycle India immediately laid down tools in support of their colleagues at Maruti Suzuki resulting in a total of 7000 workers taking action.

The conflict and the anti-union behaviour of the local Maruti Suzuki management created an international uproar, involving unions all over the whole world, notably in Japan, where the IMF-JC and JAW were in contact with the international Suzuki management. In India, all major Indian national trade unions condemned Maruti Suzuki’s’ behaviour, calling it “vengeful”, and a Labourstart campaign delivered more than 4200 letters to local management in less than 24 hours, calling on the company to respect fundamental labour rights.

Details of the agreement, which was reached between Maruti and Suzuki managements, workers and unions of the three plants, and in the presence of government officials, includes:

  • No pending disciplinary proceedings at Suzuki Motorcycles. All disciplinary proceedings pending against workers were dropped;
  • At Suzuki Powertrain, disciplinary proceedings against three workers will continue;
  • 1,200 contract workers will be reinstated but disciplinary proceedings against 33 workers will continue at Maruti Suzuki. Transport services will resume.

Shiv Kumar, General Secretary of the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) thanked the IMF, IMF-JC, JAW and Labourstart for their solidarity extended to the striking workers throughout their struggle. ” I want to express our sincere appreciation for making our strike known across the globe. The timely support and solidarity boosted workers’ morale, strengthened their resolve to fight and gave them the feeling that they are not alone, that workers across the world are with them. This assurance was a big motivating factor.”

Occupy Movement goes to Pakistan! (10/22 in Karachi)

سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی
Anti-Capitalism Movement / In Solidarity with Wall Street Occupiers
اکتوبر 18 2011
پریس ریلیز
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے سے یکجہتی اور سرمایہ داری کے خلاف احتجاج ۲۲ اکتوبر بروز ہفتہ کراچی پریس کلب پر ہو گا
سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی کا قیام
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی کے لیے کراچی کی مختلف سیاسی و طلبہ تنظیموں کا ایک اجلاس پی ایم اے ہاﺅ س کراچی میں منعقد ہوا ۔ اس اجلاس میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنا دینے والے نوجوانوں اور سیاسی کارکنوں کی جدوجہد کو خراجِ تحسین پیش کرتے ہوئے سرمایہ داری نظام اور اسکی لوٹ کھسوٹ کے خلاف ابھرنے والی عالمگیر تحریک کو سراہا گیا۔ اس اجلاس میں نیشنل اسٹوڈنٹس فیڈریشن، انٹرنیشنل سوشلسٹ پاکستان، نیٹ ورک فار وومن، کراچی یونیورسٹی، آغا خان یونیورسٹی، سی بی ایم، آئی بی ایم اور دیگر تعلیمی ادروں سے تعلق رکھنے والے طالبعلموں اور اساتذہ اور محنت کشوں نے شرکت کی۔ اجلاس میں یہ فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ وال اسٹریٹ دھرنوں کی طرز پر کراچی میں بھی سرمایہ داروں کی لوٹ مار، مہنگائی، بے روزگاری، مہنگی تعلیم و صحت، مہنگی بجلی، گیس اور مقامی و ملٹی نیشنل کمپنیوں اور بنکوں کی منافع خوری کے خلاف آگاہی و احتجاجی مہم کا آغاز کیا جائے۔ اس سلسلے میں کئی کمیٹیاں تشکیل دی گئیں تو شہر بھر کے تعلیمی اداروں اور مزدورتنظیموں سے رابطہ کر کے انہیں سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کا حصہ بنائیں گی۔ اجلاس میںیہ بھی فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ لیکچرز، فلموں کے زریعے پاکستان میں سرمایہ داری کے ظلم و ستم، فوجی آپریشنوں ، مظلوم قومیتوں پر ظلم و جبر کے خلاف پروگرامات کیے جائیں گے۔ اجلاس میں طے ہوا کہ ہفتہ ۲۲ اکتوبر کو سہہ پہر ۳ بجے کراچی پریس کلب پر پہلا احتجاجی مظاہرہ کیا جائے گا جس میں شہر بھر میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کی حمایت کرنے والوں کو شرکت کی دعوت دی جائے گی۔
جاری کردہ
(نغمہ شیخ)
برائے سرمایہ مخالف تحریک، کراچی

Reinstate Drs. Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro!

To the Board of Trustees of CIIS and President Joseph Subbiondo:


We, undersigned faculty and allies, were shocked to learn about the suspension and ongoing termination proceedings against Professors Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro of the Social and Cultural Anthropology Department at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).


In a time of increasing corporatization and mediocrity of the Academy, which degrade and devalue spaces for progressive thought and politics, we are deeply disturbed to hear about the targeting of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro. Their academic and advocacy work have focused on justice and restitution in conflict areas, anti-oppression work, and scholarship critical of systemic forms of oppression. This work should especially merit support from an institution which claims as one of its primary ideals “to further the effectiveness of emancipatory movements such as feminism, social and political liberation, cultural self-expression, and ecological activism”.


We are appalled to hear about the many procedural irregularities in the investigation against Professors Chatterji and Shapiro, as well as the student testimonies of mistreatment throughout these proceedings by members of the CIIS administration. We understand that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has examined all of the evidence presented to faculty by the administration and urged their reinstatement. We also understand that a majority of their students insist that their education continue with Chatterji and Shapiro, and have secured legal counsel to demand their professor’s reinstatement.


We see this targeting of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro, and their students, as part of a trend to consolidate autocratic administrative powers in higher education, which undermines academic freedom and faculty and students rights. We understand that both Professors Chatterji and Shapiro have been a vocally political force within the Institute and have consistently advocated for collective and participatory governance, student rights, and faculty empowerment at CIIS. The Anthropology Department, designed to privilege social justice and advocacy, enables academic and ADVOCACY work in solidarity with marginalized communities.


We urge that CIIS extend its support for education offered by Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro.


We urgently request:

1. The IMMEDIATE reinstatement of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro to their full faculty status, in keeping with the AAUP’s August 11th letter to CIIS;


2. The IMMEDIATE formation of a faculty committee, with the guidance of the AAUP, to investigate the conduct of the relevant Institute Administrators in this matter, with the power to terminate any

Administrator for misconduct of a grave nature;


3. An expeditious procedure addressing Anthropology students’ grievances about the degradation of their education and their experiences of mistreatment by members of the Administration;


4. That any credible and outstanding grievances against Chatterji and Shapiro be dealt with through established protocols.


Please be informed that we will continue to watch this matter very closely.



Open letter to Austin unions

Open Letter to Austin Unions:

We, the undersigned, are union activists in Austin who have been watching the protests taking place in New York City (under the heading “Occupy Wall Street”) with much interest and enthusiasm.  They represent the feelings of ordinary Americans who are not only being left out of the economy but who are being robbed of their futures by the Wall Street bailout.

Starting on Thursday, October 6, 2011, activists in Austin will be starting a similar action called “Occupy Austin.”  The current plan is to assemble in front of Austin City Hall and show our discontent at the way the leaders of this state and this nation have wrecked the economy and helped the rich get richer.

We are appealing to you to support this action.  We think that this nonviolent demonstration is part of a process that began in Tunisia, and spread through Egypt, Greece, and Madison earlier this year and represents the feelings of millions of people throughout the world that the priorities of the people at the top no longer represent them.

Earlier this month, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 joined the Occupy Wall Street protest and posted this on their website:

“The Transport Workers Union Local 100 applauds the courage of the young people on Wall Street who are dramatically demonstrating for what our position has been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by government officials looks awfully like a one-way street. Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up all the sacrifice, and the financiers who imploded our economy are getting away scot-free, increasing their holdings and bonuses.

Young people face a bleak future with high unemployment, and minimum wage jobs. Public sector workers face Mayors and Governors who demand massive wage and benefits givebacks or face thousands of layoffs. That’s not bargaining. That’s blackmail.

One out of six Americans lives in poverty today, and the richest one percent control more wealth than at any time since the Gilded Age of the 1920’s.

The TWU Local 100 Executive Board is united in our determination that this state of affairs is dangerous for America and destructive to its citizenry. We support the Wall Street protesters and their goal to reduce inequality and support every American’s right to a decent job, health care, and retirement security.”

We encourage all unions in Austin to do the same with Occupy Austin: pass resolutions in support, encourage members to attend, and make contributions of resources if you can.

If you have questions (or would like someone to speak to your local) please feel free to contact us at

In solidarity,

Workers Defense Project

Snehal Shingavi, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Mike Corwin, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Will Wise, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Ben Brenneman, IBEW 520

Emily Hersh, Education Austin

Julien Devereux, Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America, Local 6186