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UC Davis police refuse to protect Jewish students

Mar 16, 2012

Re: UC Davis police did not protect Jewish students

Dear President Yudof:

We appreciate your Open Letter to the University of California community, in which you forcefully condemn student hecklers at UC Davis who attempted to disrupt a pro-Israel event, and you clearly acknowledge that the hecklers’ behavior, “meant to deny others their right to free speech,” is not protected by the First Amendment.

We do, however, disagree with your statement that UC Davis officials “dealt appropriately” with the situation.

There is ample evidence that the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) conspired to disrupt and ultimately shut down the Jewish students’ event.  Their behavior was an egregious infringement of the Jewish students’ freedom of expression and assembly, and a clear violation of university policy, state law, and common decency.  Yet eyewitnesses reported that the campus police, who are responsible for enforcing University policy and upholding the law, did absolutely nothing to prevent the disruption, which lasted for most of the duration of the event.  According to one witness, UC Davis Professor of Medicine Dr. David Siegel:

“Disgracefully, campus security and the UC Davis Police did nothing to prevent this behavior…They also refused to take the names of the disruptive individuals.  Clearly this sets a chilling precedent for future campus public events where one individual could disrupt the event without any fear of consequences.”

As you may know, during the same week as the SJP students planned and successfully disrupted the pro-Israel event at UC Davis, members of the SJP at UC Riverside and UCLA planned and carried out disruptions of pro-Israel events on their respective campuses.  This is not surprising, since SJP’s primary mission as a student organization is to mount campaigns for harming the Jewish state and its supporters, and SJP’s events and activities often specifically target pro-Israel Jewish students for harassment and intimidation.  Considering the fact that SJP has ties to organizations and individuals who have called for the elimination of the Jewish state and the murder of Jews, it is not hard to understand why some Jewish students who openly identify with the Jewish state have reported being fearful for their safety on UC campuses.  (In this video, several Jewish students at UCSD describe how the SJP’s anti-Israel divestment campaign has created an emotionally and physically threatening climate for them, and that they do not feel safe on their own campus). The data are irrefutable.

The UC Davis police witnessed the bullying, harassment, intimidation, and fear of the Jewish students, yet chose not to act. By turning a blind eye to the illegal and morally reprehensible behavior of the hecklers, the UC Davis police, under orders from top University administrators, failed to ensure the basic civil rights of Jewish students to freedom of assembly and expression, as well as their right to a campus climate free from bullying, harassment, intimidation, and fear.  The failure of University police to act suggests that the University leadership has lost control of its campus and that the safety of Jewish students is at risk.

Immediate binding action must be taken to protect Jewish students on all UC campuses.  We recommend the following:

  • University policy must spell out actions that campus police, administrators, and staff are responsible for taking to ensure the safety and civil rights of all students, and we urge that this policy be published widely to the campus community.
  • Police, administrators, and staff must be immediately informed about actions they should take and protocols they can access to afford all members of the campus community — including Jewish students — the protections that are afforded to them under University policy and state and federal law.
  • Individual students who disrupt or threaten others at University events should be immediately removed from the environment.
  • Perpetrators of disruptive and threatening behavior must be identified and appropriately disciplined.
  • Official student groups that engage in behavior which targets other students for harassment and intimidation should have their organization’s official status revoked and should receive no funds from the student government or University.

We look forward to hearing from you about the steps you intend to take to ensure that Jewish students have the same protections and civil rights as all other students at the University of California.


Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative


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