AMCHA’S Responses to Antisemitic Activity at University of California Santa Cruz
4. A Hillel Israeli Independence Day Celebration is Intentionally Disrupted, Access was Blocked and the Event was Ruined by Student Protesters yet the Administration is Silent on the Issue.
- INCIDENT: A Hillel-sponsored, university-approved event in Quarry Plaza — a celebration of Israeli Independence Day that scores of Jewish and pro-Israel students had devoted hours of planning for many months and that was to be Hillel’s largest event of the year – was intentionally disrupted and ruined by student protesters led by the African/Black Student Alliance (A/BSA) on May 2, 2017. Shortly after the Hillel students had set up their event, protesters streamed into Quarry Plaza and, for more than an hour, purposefully blocked Hillel’s tables from being accessed and used a public address system at full blast, making it impossible for attendees to hear and enjoy the program planned for the Hillel event. In addition, after A/BSA leaders called for standing in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters, some protesters yelled “Free Palestine,” “F*** Jewish Slugs,” “F*** Zionist Slugs,” and tore down an Israeli flag at the Hillel event. The week before the event, the Hillel Director had informed UCSC administrators of the impending A/BSA protest and asked for assistance in ensuring that the Hillel event would not be disrupted. In response, only one member of the university staff, Associate Vice Chancellor Jean Marie Scott, was present during the protest. No security was there to prevent the disruption or was called once it began. Even worse, after the events took place, the administration did not say a single word even acknowledging, let alone condemning, this blatant suppression of Jewish and pro-Israel students’ freedom of expression and assembly. The students who perpetrated the acts have not been subject to disciplinary actions or held accountable for their behavior.
- 5/18/17 – AMCHA & COALITION RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative drafted and coordinated a letter signed by Santa Cruz Jewish community leaders and 133 UCSC stakeholders (students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and donors) to UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal asking him to issue a public statement committing to fully implementing the Regents Statement Against Intolerance and developing a long-term plan of action. As part of the plan of action, the signers recommended that Chancellor Blumenthal, “Ensure that prompt and appropriate disciplinary measures are taken when any individual or group engages in behavior that suppresses the freedom of expression or civil rights of others. To be a credible deterrent against campus abuses, “appropriate disciplinary measures” must include rigorous penalties such as suspension and expulsion for individuals, and the loss of university approval for groups. committing to fully implementing the Regents Statement Against Intolerance and developing a long-term plan of action.”
3. UCSC Chooses and Sponsors Anti-Zionist Angela Davis as Speaker for MLK Event
- INCIDENT: Angela Davis, a well known anti-Zionist who aggressively promotes boycotts of the Jewish state and has condoned terrorism against it, gave a talk entitled “Racism, Militarism, Poverty: From Ferguson to Palestine” as the keynote address at UCSC’s 31st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation. Davis’ talk was sponsored by the UCSC Office of the Chancellor. Far from being a unique event, UCSC has a long history of providing administrative and departmental sponsorship for antisemitic events which demonize and delegitimize Israel, and many Jewish students have reported feeling a sense of alienation, marginalization and anti-Jewish hostility in response to these events.
- 1/27/15 – AMCHA & COALITION RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative and 19 other organizations wrote to UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal asking him to issue a public statement committing himself to the following actions: 1) Review UCSC’s policies on University sponsorship and neutrality and develop model institutional protocols for such activities. 2) Adopt a definition of antisemitism and provide a model protocol for campus administrators to identify contemporary incidents of antisemitism, which may be sanctioned by University non-discrimination or anti-harassment policies.
2. UAW 2865 Releases Statement of Intent to Support Antisemitic BDS Movement and Bring Propaganda to Classroom
- INCIDENT: The 83-member joint council of UAW 2865 – representing all of the TA’s, tutors and readers at the 9 teaching campuses of the University of California –issued a statement outlining the union’s intent to support the anti-Israel and antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and to seek a full-membership vote on the statement this coming year. The nine teaching campuses include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. In the statement, the union exclaimed the need to “educate” others on the “settler-colonial” and “apartheid” nature of the Jewish state.
- 8/12/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC President Napolitano which included eleven other groups – Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Lawfare Project and Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked President Napolitano to ensure antisemitic propaganda and BDS are not brought into UC classrooms by the Union of Student Workers.
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr responds to the coalition with a letter, confirming that the “University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Conduct, referenced in your letter.” The letter further states, “We will ask the campuses to remind all the ASE’s about these policies and their obligation to adhere to them.”
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr sends a letter to all 9 Chancellors, which states, “Attached is a letter from Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative, raising concerns about academic student employees (ASE) supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in classrooms. In the last several weeks, we have received over a hundred emails similar to Ms. Benjamin’s. You may have received such inquiries as well. Since we have had queries from your campuses about this issue, I am writing to clarify that the University’s position as to the conduct of ASEs in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the following…” The letter further listed the Policy on Course Content, Management and Academic Rights, Academic Freedom, and the Faculty Code of Conduct.
- 10/7/14 – AMCHA & COALITION THANK YOU LETTER RESPONSE: AMCHA and coalition respond to Provost Dorr’s positive actions with a letter expression gratitude, including stating, “We were very concerned that this would happen with UC teaching assistants, and are therefore grateful that you confirmed: “The University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Content”. In addition, we greatly appreciate that you sent a letter notifying every UC Chancellor of the need to inform ASE’s that they are obligated to adhere to several university policies which prohibit them from using their instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel. These policies were established for a reason, and we appreciate your reminding the Chancellors to uphold them.”
- 12/8/14 – AMCHA & 21 ORGANIZATIONS PROACTIVELY WRITE UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO AND UC PROVOST DORR: Following the UAW 2865 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) vote on December 4 2014, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy groups wrote to inquire of UC President Napolitano and UC Provost Dorr whether University of California (UC) policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, propaganda in the classroom also apply to UC faculty.
- 12/11/14 – ASSEMBLYMEMBER BLOOM WRITES TO UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: Out of concern for Jewish and pro-Israel students, Assemblymember Bloom sent a letter to UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents which stated in part: “I greatly appreciate that Provost Dorr took the time to explicity remind all chancellors that the Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits UAW graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel propaganda in the classroom. Earlier this week, in a letter authored by Tammi Benjamin of AMCHA, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy organizations wrote to you asking if the Regents Policy on Course Content also applies to UC faculty. I join in asking that question. The classroom must be a place where all views are welcomed and all students feel they can have a voice. The classroom should not be a soapbox for a professor’s political advocacy.”
- 12/18/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS WRITE 9 UC CHANCELLORS: Following the passage of the adoption of BDS by UAW 2865, AMCHA Initiative and 21 other education, civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter to nine University of California (UC) Chancellors urging them to publicly state their commitment to upholding UC policies which prohibit academic student employees (ASEs) from using their instructional positions to promote a boycott of Israel. The letter concludes by stating, “We therefore call on each of you to issue a public statement affirming your commitment to strictly enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content and to ensuring that Jewish and pro-Israel students have access to a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment.”
- 12/19/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: In response to a letter sent from the AMCHA-led coalition of 22 groups on December 8, 2014 asking if the UC policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS in the classroom also apply to UC faculty, Provost Dorr responded by stating, “I understand from your letter that you are concerned that UC faculty may promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the classroom and that you are seeking clarification as to whether the Regents Policy on Course Content applies to UC faculty members. In response to your question, the Regents Policy on Course Content does apply to UC faculty members.”
- 12/22/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS THANK PROVOST DORR: The AMCHA-led coalition thanked University of California (UC) Provost Aimee Dorr and UC administrators for protecting the well-bring of Jewish students, stating “Thank you very much for your response to our letter …We are…extremely grateful for your acknowledgement that the Regents Policy on Course Content, which prohibits the misuse of the classroom for the advance of partisan interests and political indoctrination, applies equally to graduate student instructors and faculty. We also appreciate that you copied all of the UC Chancellors on your response, and we hope that in light of your very clear statement, administrators on each campus will strictly enforce the Regents Policy on Course Content in the case of both graduate student instructors and faculty, thereby ensuring that all students — including Jewish and pro-Israel students — have access to a quality learning environment that is safe and non-discriminatory.”
1. AMCHA Co-Founder Under Attack by Pro-Palestinian Group at UCSC
- INCIDENT: AMCHA Initiative Co-founder and University of California Santa Cruz faculty member Tammi Rossman-Benjamin was a target of harassment and defamation from a pro-Palestinian student group at UCSC, the Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) and members of affiliated Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups on other UC campuses.
- 5/8/13 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA wrote a letter to UC President Yudof documenting the antisemitic behavior of Students for Justice in Palestine and other groups on UC campuses and calling on UC leaders to take immediate action.