(AUSTIN, TX, 12/9/23) – The Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Texas) today called for the reinstatement of two graduate students who were allegedly removed from their TA (teaching assistant) positions at the University of Texas at Austin a week after sending a message to their students acknowledging the Palestinian students’ struggle with harassment on campus and addressing their mental health needs.Those TAs reportedly received a sudden removal notice from the Dean of Social Work School, Allan Cole, because of what he called an unprompted message on the war in Israel that was unrelated to the course and was sent without the supervisor’s consent.
[NOTE: CAIR’s national office released new civil rights data showing that it has received a “staggering” 2,171 complaints over the past 57 days amid an ongoing wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate.]
One of the removed TAs refuted that claim, saying: “Our message, sent on Nov. 16th, was prompted when a student in the class asked for Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab mental health to be acknowledged. The content of the message pertained directly to the course material, focused on mental health and the impacts of institutional harm on marginalized groups. And we received unambiguous permission from our professor to send this message.”
“Both TAs have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from their professors and students in the past semesters. Dean Cole’s claims that they lack professional judgment and are untrustworthy are in contradiction to their professional history,” said Shaimaa Zayan, CAIR-TX community Relation Coordinator. “Dean Cole failed to follow the procedure outlined in UT’s Handbook of Operating Procedures 0-2050, which specifies that when an administrator seeks to take disciplinary action against a teaching assistant, they need to contact the TA directly to inform them of their intent to pursue disciplinary action against them and copy the provost.”
She added: “This incident came as no surprise as UT Austin students have been facing verbal abuse, harassment, and threats to silence their pro-Palestinian voice as reported in the Student Statement of Solidarity with Palestine.”
On Oct. 19, CAIR Austin sent a response to President Hartzel regarding his one-sided letter to the students asking him to reconsider his messages to his students, develop a more balanced view of the Mideast crisis, acknowledge islamophobia on and off campus, and meet UT mosque leader.
“We haven’t gotten any response from Mr. Hartzel or his office nor he has reached out to the UT Mosque leadership,” said Zayan. “All of this leaves the Austin community wondering whether UT Austin administration is committed to freedom of speech, justice, and inclusion for all students.”
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR-Austin Community Relation coordinator, Shaimaa Zayan,