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Sondra Hale
        Anthropology, Women's Studies

After receiving her Ph.D. from UCLA in 1979, Professor Sondra Hale moved half an hour down the 405 Freeway to California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).  All these years later, Hale has returned to UCLA as a professor of both Women’s Studies and Anthropology, and in 2005 wrapped up a three-year term as the acting chair of the Women’s Studies Program.  While tending to these commitments has kept her busy, Hale has still found time to make her radical bones: thorough research finds her signature on no less than fourteen recent extremist petitions and statements.

            1982 was the first year in which Hale made major news for her radical views.  At that point, Hale was a CSULB professor and director of the university’s Women’s Studies program.  That year, the California Eagle Forum, a state chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, initiated an investigation under which California Eagle Forum co-chairwoman Jo Ellen Allen and three other members sat in on CSULB Women’s Studies classes, read assigned textbooks, and interviewed students.  On August 7, 1982, the Miami Herald was one of a number of major newspapers to carry an Associated Press article describing the Forum’s findings.  The “entire women’s studies program is imbalanced,” Allen charged.  “It teaches one point of view about women’s studies programs and that point of view is feminism.”  Allen also noted the program's “emphasis on lesbianism and an advocacy of it.”  The California Eagle Forum took particular issue with two instructors.  The first, part-time instructor Betty Brooks, had showed photographic slides of her genitals in class, while a male professor, Barry Singer, had offered extra credit in his “Psychology of Sex” course for students who engaged in experimental sex. 

The California Eagle Forum took their concerns to two State Senators and an Assemblyman, who in turn relayed those concerns to the CSULB administration.  The school responded by demoting Hale from her position as director of the Women’s Studies Program and eventually refusing to renew her contract.  Brooks was relieved of her teaching assignments, while Singer simply resigned.  Additionally, the Women’s Center was temporarily closed, and no courses were offered in the Women’s Studies Program during the second summer session. 

In response to the punitive measures, thirteen faculty members (including Hale) and two students launched what would end up being a nearly decade-long lawsuit backed by the legal muscle of the ACLU.  In a fascinating historical footnote, one of Hale’s fellow plaintiffs was none other than militant lesbian, UCLA graduate, and former “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” child actress Sheila Kuehl, who today represents parts of West Los Angeles and south Ventura County as State Senator for District 23.

An April 16, 1991 story in the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that the lawsuit ended in a cumulative $110,000 settlement for the final six teachers and administrators (including the genitals-baring Brooks) still serving as plaintiffs.  CSULB never admitted wrongdoing, insisting that it would have won at trial, and explained that the school viewed a court battle, even a successful one, as not worth the expense.  The contention was not (as it usually is) a laughable one.  Given the relatively modest amount of money involved (even in 1991, $110,000 minus attorney’s fees, then split six ways, was not a king’s ransom), the spokeswoman’s explanation is actually quite plausible, if not the probable truth.

By that time, however, Hale was safely ensconced as an anthropology lecturer at California State University, Northridge, staying in that position from 1987-1994, and serving as (drum roll, please) chair of the Women’s Studies Department from 1993-1994.  At the same time, Hale was also serving as a UCLA lecturer, and by 1997, had wormed her way into an adjunct professorship, from whence she eventually won tenure in 2001.  There’s no denying that Hale has had to work hard, overcoming major obstacles to get where she is today.  But the unmistakable impression that Hale is ‘damaged goods’ remains.  Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because, as any balanced review of her public actions will show, Hale learned no lesson from her troubles at CSULB.  She has remained utterly unrepentant and to this day, shows no recognition of natural boundaries between personal and professional activities.  The only thing that has changed, it seems, is that UCLA accepts, if not encourages, this disregard.  A prime example of such blended personal/professional activism is Hale’s hard-core Palestianian sympathies, and devotion to the late terrorist-loving academic Edward Said.  Following his 2003 death, Hale single-handedly convened a symposium to celebrate the man and his dubious achievements.  In a short oral presentation during the conference, Hale even advanced the idea that Said was an “Accidental Feminist.”  It’s not necessary, just because you’re a feminist who likes Edward Said, to somehow make the square peg of misogynistic Arab nationalism fit in the round hole of Vagina Monologues feminism.  Sometimes things should just stay separate.

Not according to Professor Hale, though.  Her love for all things Palestinian has driven her to the presidency of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies, and even, at one point, to a nomination for the presidency of the entire radical Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA).  Hale has founded the group “Feminists in Support of Palestinian Women,” and serves as coordinator of the U.S. branch of the group “Birzeit Right to Education Campaign.”  Hale has publicly committed herself to an anti-Israel, pro-terror stance by signing the following petitions and statements:

-         New York University’s Israeli divestment petition

-         University of California Israeli divestment petition

-         Support for the third annual Israeli divestment conference, held that year in New Jersey 

-         Not In Our Name’s (NION’s) 2002 “Statement of Conscience Against War and Repression”

-         “Professors of Conscience” statement joining Israeli academics in common anti-Israeli rhetoric

-         Rejection of the 2003 Geneva peace accord signed by Israel with Palestinian leaders

-         “NGO Statement” from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

-        “Urgent Palestinian Appeal to the World” from the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People

-         “End the Occupation Now!” from the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding

-         “International Response to the Bush Declaration on the Palestinian Right to Return” from Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition 

Of special note is Hale’s signature on the NION “Statement of Conscience.”  A January 18, 1991 Los Angeles Times article carries Hale’s words at a protest rally against Persian Gulf War, words as hateful today as the day they were spoken:

“Make them tell us how many people have been killed in Iraq already.  Make them show us the faces of our so-called enemies.  Make them show the women and children and civilians because if we saw one single face of the people they're bombing they would have to stop this madness.”

No doubt those angry words earned Hale a cheer at the UCLA protest that day, but it’s striking just how similar those words are to the rubbish that Hale’s anti-war compatriots are selling today.  If there’s going to be a victim-off comparing the numbers of those who have died from the U.S. military campaigns, against the number of those who lie dead from Saddam Hussein’s murderous reign of terror, Hale knows exactly who would come out looking foolish.  Rather than showing the world the faces of the comparatively small number of innocents who died in the U.S. military missions (killed, importantly, by accident rather than design), radicals might do something more meaningful.  Show the faces of the tens of thousands slaughtered by Hussein’s regime, run through his plastic shredders, who lie in mass, unmarked graves, who starved, perished, and rotted in open fields.

Hale’s seething hatred of American and the state of Israel certainly looks good on a resume for president of the Middle East Studies Association.  But there’s even more to her radical identity.  Over the years, Hale has found time for the hurly-burly of more pedestrian on-campus concerns.  Hale signed the 1995 faculty anti-SP-1/SP-2 resolution.  Hale was even (oddly enough) one of a handful of professors who bothered to involve themselves in the name change of the ASUCLA homosexual-issues student newsmagazine TenPercent.  Due to an alleged legacy of white, gay-male-centricity within the magazine, the 2005 staff successfully petitioned to change the title to OutWrite, this after a campaign that included seeking out and winning the support of faculty like Hale. 

Hale even mixed herself up with teaching assistant labor strife, telling the Los Angeles Times on November 19, 1998, “I think any group of people who are employed have a right to form a union,” adding “I moved [my] class because I’m strongly in support of the strike.”  Frankly, between faculty walkouts in support of affirmative action, teaching assistant unionization, and against the war(s), Hale’s predictable no-business-as-usual gimmick looked a little stale.  Perhaps next time professors want to protest something, they could stay in their classrooms.  They can even call it a “walk-in.”  Consider the idea my little gift to the UCLA faculty.