Transcript of an excerpt of a video conversation between UC Berkeley’s next chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, and Dan Mogulof of Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs:
DAN MOGULOF: Floating around on the Internet is a claim that at some point in your past, you know, you signed a petition calling for Columbia to divest in all things Israel. And there is a lot of information surrounding that, or misinformation surrounding that, and I want to give you an opportunity to let us know exactly what happened there, what your role was and what your sort of philosophy is about sort of divestment type efforts insofar as the Middle East, or any other place in the world is concerned.
NICHOLAS DIRKS: Right. Well, when that particular petition was being circulated, I was chair of the department of anthropology and in fact, at some point, saw my name on a list and asked it to be removed. Truth is, I do not support divestment as a strategy for the university. I don’t support divestment with respect to Israel..........
DM: So before we move on, I want to drag you back to the divestment issue, if you will. There are also reports that at one time your wife signed a petition, a divestment petition calling on Columbia to divest in all things Israel. Do you think that’s an appropriate issue? Is that something that people should be concerned about, what your wife may or may not have done in the past?
ND: Well, first of all, let me say that my wife is a ferociously independent person. She has many views, some of which I share and some of which I don’t. We have a long history of being able to talk about things and have different perspectives and even different views. That being said, she did, back in 2002, sign one of the divestment petitions that was circulating around Columbia, before she had either thought very much about the issue or for that matter really had any sense at all of what putting her signature to that document might mean. And she has subsequently thought a great deal about this issue, and she has regretted signing this. She has changed her position completely on issues of divestment. And indeed, I think she feels that it was an unfortunate and ill-thought moment in her own life and participation in things at Columbia.
That being said, I need to emphasize again that she has her views. They are not germane to the kinds of things that I believe that are part of being the next chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. And I hope that she’ll be given the independence and the respect necessary for her to have her role on the faculty, as a member of the community and indeed as my partner as I move to Berkeley.