Letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Gillman:
52 Groups Urge Immediate Response to SJP Disruption in Framework of Principles Against Intolerance
June 14, 2017
Dear Chancellor Gillman,
We are 52 Jewish, Christian, education and civil rights organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters. Many of our organizations wrote to you last August to express our sincere appreciation for your statement to the campus community, committing yourself to ensuring “the full implementation of all elements of the Regents’ statement [of Principles Against Intolerance].” We are writing to you now, however, to echo the serious concerns raised by UC Irvine Hillel, Hillel International, Students Supporting Israel National and other organizations regarding the university’s handling of last month’s disruption of a pro-Israel event by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). We, too, are deeply disappointed that, despite your verbal commitment to fully implement the Regents’ statement, little on the ground has improved when it comes to addressing intolerant behavior directed against Jewish and pro-Israel students.
For four years in a row now, members of Students for Justice in Palestine and other anti-Zionist groups have been permitted to intentionally and successfully disrupt a student-organized, pro-Israel event:
- On May 10, 2017, approximately forty protesters, who were granted entrance to a Students Supporting Israel event featuring five Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists, on the condition that they behave civilly and not disrupt, broke out into loud, sustained chants that purposely made it impossible for the event to continue. The reservists and the audience who came to hear them had to be escorted out of the building by campus police for their safety.
- On May 18, 2016, Jewish and pro-Israel students had to be escorted by campus police from the room in which an Israel-themed film was being screened, after an angry mob of dozens of protesters stood right outside the event, loudly chanted, pounded on the room’s door and prevented students from entering and exiting.
- On April 23, 2015, an Anteaters for Israel event was disrupted by protesters, who chanted loudly to drown out the event and blocked the walkway leading to the event.
- And on May 8, 2014, at a pro-Israel event, members of anti-Zionist student groups assaulted three female Jewish students and pushed others away from information booths set up for the event.
None of these incidents was spontaneous. Rather, the disruptions and attempted shut-downs of pro-Israel events were carefully planned by members of anti-Zionist student groups, particularly SJP, as part of an ideologically motivated campaign to suppress any and all Zionist or pro-Israel expression on campus. As one SJP leader boasted the day after the most recent disruption, during an event connected with the SJP-sponsored “Anti-Zionism Week”:
“Last night we disrupted their event to let them know that we refuse to allow the normalization of their presence here… And last year, we shut down an IDF panel, we shut down their panel [loud cheers and applause].”
There is a clear distinction between expression that is protected by the First Amendment and harassment. We recognize that while SJP members may advocate for an anti-Zionist agenda that includes the promotion of BDS and calls for the elimination of the Jewish state — expression that our groups find hateful and deeply offensive – they are within their constitutional rights to do so. However, when SJP members engage in speech or action intended to suppress the expression of other students or to deprive them of the right to fully participate in campus life, the line between free speech and harassment has been crossed. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and cannot go unaddressed.
The fact that SJP members have intentionally crossed the line between protected expression and harassment, year after year, without disciplinary measures being taken against them, is outrageous. This year’s incident is especially appalling, in light of your stated commitment to implementing the Regents Principles Against Intolerance. The most basic tenet of any implementation of these principles must be to safeguard the freedom of expression of all students, first and foremost by taking prompt and appropriate disciplinary measures against those who suppress the freedom of expression or civil rights of others. In particular, any student group whose members have openly stated their commitment to shutting down the freedom of expression of other students on campus and have carried out their malicious intentions on multiple occasions should not be allowed to operate freely at UCI. Moreover, the group’s leaders and active members should be subject to disciplinary measures commensurate with their violations of university policy.
Yet it has been more than one month since the incident in question, and not only have the students who perpetrated this harassment not been disciplined, nor their student group sanctioned, your office has yet to even issue a public condemnation of SJP’s egregiously intolerant behavior. By not speaking out on this matter, you have missed a critical opportunity to educate the campus community about the unacceptable nature of SJP’s behavior, and your silence has actually contributed to the hostile climate that Jewish and pro-Israel students experience at UC Irvine.
Your failure to adequately address this most obvious case of intolerant behavior is deeply troubling and suggests that your plan for implementing the Regents’ Principles may also be inadequate. We therefore ask you to tell us how UCI’s current plan for implementing the Regents Principles Against Intolerance will adequately address the current incident and ensure that Jewish students, and all students, are protected now and in the future from intolerant behavior which denies them freedom of expression and the right to fully participate in campus life.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Academic Council for Israel
Accuracy in Academia
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF)
ACF – UC Davis
ACF – UCLA
ACF – UC Riverside
ACF – UC Santa Barbara
American Council of Trustees and Alumni
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
American Truth Project
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
California Association of Scholars
Christians and Jews United for Israel
Davis Faculty for Israel
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
IAC for Action
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jewish Israel Cafe
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA
Middle East Forum
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
National Council of Young Israel
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Russian Jewish Community Foundation
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Stop BDS on Campus
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel National
Students Supporting Israel at Columbia
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
Students Supporting Israel at UC Irvine
The Coalition for Jewish Values
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
World Jewish Congress
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: UC President Janet Napolitano
Michael R. Arias, UCI Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff
Dr. Thomas A. Parham, UCI Vice Chancellor Student Affairs
Edgar Dormitorio, UCI Chief of Staff Student Affairs
Dr. Douglas Haynes, UCI Vice Provost Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Rameen Talesh, UCI Dean of Students and Assistant Vice Chancellor Student Life and Leadership
Kirsten K. Quanbeck, UCI Associate Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Crystal Rae Lugo-Shearer, UCI Director Office of Student Conduct
Senator Benjamin Allen, Chair California Senate Standing Committee on Education
Assembly Member Jose Medina, Chair California Assembly Higher Education Committee
Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Assembly Member Mark Levine, Chair Jewish Legislative Caucus