Response to UC Irvine Chancellor Gillman Regarding Implementation of the Regents Statement
June 2, 2016
Dear Chancellor Gillman,
Thank you for your response to the letter from our 36 Jewish and civil rights organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members nationwide, including thousands from the UC community.
We appreciate the seriousness with which you are taking the May 18 incident, including the campus-wide message you sent out shortly after the incident and the investigation you launched to determine whether disciplinary or legal actions are appropriate. These are positive steps.
In addition, we recognize and commend your efforts at creating a campus climate that is welcoming for all students. In that spirit, we would like to bring to your attention student accounts and incident reports suggesting that more work remains to be done when it comes to addressing the campus climate concerns of Jewish students.
Here are some of the statements that UCI students, both current and recently graduated, have shared with us about their experiences:
- I used to be quite active in the Jewish community for my first two years in college. However, after what I have experienced, I have withdrawn myself from Jewish events for fear of being identified and targeted.
- I saw my colleagues feel intimidated to be openly Jewish on campus. Three students were physically assaulted on campus during an Anteater for Israel event. Students felt unsafe walking through campus alone to attend Shabbat dinners. Jewish students felt intimidated to voice their support of Israel in the classroom out of fear of sanction by their professors.
- The SJP often (weekly to bi-weekly) hold up a sign that says death to Zionism across the main walkway on campus, preventing people from easily crossing, hold die ins, walk down the main drag screaming “free free Palestine”, “from the river to the sea Palestine must be free”, “End the occupation” “Death to Zionist” etc. There are a lot of anti-Semitic symbols on the wall that comes every year. I have heard people be told “You Jews are occupying our land and killing our people.” I have heard about people being called kikes and dirty Jews. There have been multiple social media pages attacking Jews during my time at UCI.
- During my Freshman year, during the annual iFest, a woman came up and accused us of wanting to rid our campus of “little brown people.” After this accusation, she then threw a thermos full of hot liquid at one of the volunteers and then tried to kick him before storming away. Also during my freshman year, I was walking with a fellow Jew down a street when two men in a car shouted the word “kikes” at us as they drove by. I have seen online, multiple times of even my own friends accusing Jews of being nothing but “blood thirsty savages.” I have multiple times seen in libraries drawings of swastikas with the phrase “death to Israel” or “death to Zionism.”
- As an alumni of the graduating class of 2014 at UCI, I am troubled but not surprised to hear of the recent events of anti-Semitism on campus. As a freshman, I remember seeing blood stained Israeli flags in study centers, speakers coming to campus to slander Jews as “Nazis,” and Israelis being perceived as a racist people guilty of, and currently committing genocide.
- I was physically assaulted in an elevator in 2013. I heard my friend get called a “Zionist kike” by SJP. Today, I was called a “kike” on campus by SJP. My two female friends and I were shoved to the ground and physically assaulted at our own Israel event in 2014…I am afraid to be on this campus.
These student accounts highlight the underlying problem which those of us monitoring campus anti-Semitism understand all too well: there is a clear relationship between anti-Zionist expression and anti-Jewish hostility on campuses across the country. Recent incidents at UCI also bear out this relationship.
The May 18 protest that erupted into a threatening mob scene did not happen in a vacuum. Earlier this month, a hate-filled series of events entitled “Anti-Zionism Week” was co-sponsored by SJP and MSU, whose members were complicit in the violent disruption on May 18. The week’s events included talks and exhibits that were filled with classic anti-Semitic tropes intended to foment hatred of Israel and its supporters. It is not hard to understand how such events could have incited violent behavior toward Jewish students a short time later.
In both 2015 and 2014 similar violent disruptions of Jewish student events occurred in close proximity to “Anti-Zionism Week.” Last year, a group of 100 SJP and MSU members disrupted an outdoor iFest event for its entire duration, brandishing anti-Semitic signs and loudly shouting anti-Semitic slogans which drowned out the speeches and music featured at the event, and harassed and intimidated both event attendees and passers-by. In 2014, a mob of more than 50 SJP and MSU members stormed through an outdoor iFest event carrying huge signs with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist slogans. Protesters not only intimidated and obstructed the path of passers-by, they were also responsible for shoving to the ground and injuring three Jewish female students who were handing out flyers for the event.
The Jewish students and parents with whom we spoke were understandably disturbed and demoralized by these incidents, as well as other examples they provided us of anti-Zionist animus that had spilled over into physical and verbal harassment of themselves and their friends during the past few years. They were also distressed that, despite filing police reports and hate/bias complaints, the university had not adequately addressed the problem or acknowledged its source, namely, the anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism that incite anti-Jewish hostility. These Jewish students felt that no other racial, ethnic or gender minority would be treated in this way.
The Regents Statement of Principles Against Intolerance was put forward to address precisely these issues. The statement stipulates that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are to be treated no differently than any other form of bigotry and “have no place at the University of California.” We greatly appreciate that you strongly support the Regents principles, “especially their statements against anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” and we look forward to hearing how you intend to comprehensively implement the Regents’ principles in addressing the campus climate concerns of Jewish students. In particular, it will be valuable to know:
What rules, policies and procedures will you invoke or enact, and what educational initiatives will you establish, to ensure that anti-Jewish bigotry will be treated as promptly and vigorously as all other racial, ethnic, or gender bigotry, and that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism have no place at UC Irvine?
We await your response and thank you for your leadership. Demonstrating a firm commitment to the implementation of the Regents’ statement will serve as a model for other UC Chancellors to likewise take similar stands. We appreciate your efforts on this issue of such vital importance to the Jewish community.
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness
AMCHA UCLA Alumni
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
Davis Faculty for Israel
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi
Stop BDS on Campus
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel at UC Irvine
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: Thomas A. Partham, Vice Chancellor Student Affairs
Douglas M. Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
UC Board of Regents
Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Senator Marty Block, Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus