"One person's hate speech is another person's education."
I have previously written about the AMCHA Initiative, focused on a petition to University of California President Mark Yudof demanding that the university take steps to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic acts of harassment. Below is a message I received from my friends, AMCHA leaders, Tammi Benjamin, Lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus at UCLA.
"Dear AMCHA Initiative Supporter:
Congratulations! Our letter to University of California President Mark Yudof expressing concern about the hostile environment for Jewish students on some UC campuses, signed by over 5,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community, has received public recognition from the UC administration, the LA Times, and Israel National News!
In contrast to last year’s dismissive response to a similar letter from 12 Jewish organizations , the AMCHA Initiative letter has compelled President Yudof, for the first time, to post an official statement on the UC website recognizing the concerns of the Jewish community with regard to anti-Jewish bigotry:
Although President Yudof does not address the specific issues we raise in our letter, nor are the University's efforts to date adequate to protecting Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, we are nevertheless pleased that the concerns of the California Jewish community for the safety and well-being of our students on UC campuses have finally been officially and publicly acknowledged.
Here is an article about the AMCHA Initiative letter that appeared in Friday's LA Times:
At the end of the article, President Yudof is quoted as saying that the university can do nothing about anti-Semitic speech, which is protected under the first amendment. We want to remind President Yudof and all UC leaders that they have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of our students at the University of California. They also have a moral and educational responsibility to exercise their own free speech in condemning anti-Jewish bigotry swiftly, forcefully, and publicly -- just as they have done in the past with respect to bigotry directed at other ethnic minorities.
Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) has also reported on our letter to President Yudof:
Your support is making a difference! UC leaders now know that the California Jewish community will not remain silent while Jewish students are being harassed and intimidated on UC campuses!
We will keep you updated about responses to our letter and future efforts of the AMCHA Initiative.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year,"
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, UCLA
"Although President Yudof does not address the specific issues we raise in our letter, nor are the University's efforts to date adequate to protecting Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment........."
I'll say. Let's go to Yudof's letter and point a few things out.
"Such difficulties, of course, do not lessen our obligation to do everything in our power to eradicate this cancer whenever and wherever it flares anew. With the Board of Regents, campus leadership and affected students, I have worked hard to ensure that all such incidents have been met with swift and appropriate action. We have condemned these despicable incidents, published statements outlining the unacceptable nature of such behavior, and students have been disciplined to the full extent possible. All incidents of hate speech have been promptly investigated."
A couple of years ago, after filming a speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali at UC Irvine, a young Jewish girl was followed back to her car and surrounded by several male members of the Muslim Student Union, trying to take down her vehicle ID information. She called campus police as did a community woman who was witness and who was subjected to similar treatment by the students, who crawled on her hood trying to jot down the VIN number. The police took no action and later told the witness that the Jewish female was the instigator. Absolutely no action was taken against the students. I know both females involved and have heard their account first-hand.
How about UC Berkeley professor Andrew Gutierrez, who showed up at a small and peaceful Jewish protest against swastikas appearing on campus bathroom walls last year? This blog has a video and photograph of Gutierrez heckling Jewish students and giving them the finger. Where was the condemnation of that?
Where was the condemnation in 2002 when Mohammed al-Asi said at UCI in 2001, "You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew."? (To be fair, the UCI chancellor at that time was the useless Ralph Cicerone, now running the National Academy of Sciences, and Yudof had not yet joined UC.)
In May of 2010, Amir Abdel Malik Ali told Jewish audience members at UCI, "You Jews! Y'all the new Nazis!" In response, Chancellor Michael Drake condemned the speaker's hate speech without identifying the speaker, the (MSU) event, or the objectionable comment.
The important point is that while acknowledging that hate speech can be protected free speech, we have been asking university officials to at least condemn the hateful words with specificity. I raised that specific point to UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky during Q and A after he gave a speech last year at a local synagogue. Drake's above comment is the strongest response we have seen at UCI, but it was not nearly specific enough.
"In response to the February 2010 incident at UC Irvine involving the disruption of a speech by Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, by members of the campus Muslim Student Union (MSU), the students involved in the disruption were arrested and the matter was referred to the Orange County District Attorney's Office and to the Student Judiciary Office. The latter initiated its Student Judiciary Review process to address the issues under their jurisdiction. On May 27, 2010, a letter of sanction was issued to the MSU, which included a one-year suspension followed by one year of probation. According to the Chancellor's Office, these sanctions "were based on a thorough evaluation of the facts and were proportionate to the severity of violations of UC Irvine's Student Code of Conduct." In addition, earlier this year, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed misdemeanor charges of conspiring to disrupt a meeting and a speech against 11 UC students in connection with the disruption."
That one-year suspension was reduced to one quarter by Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez on his last day in office as he went into retirement. (It was hardly surprising.)
As for the Campus Climate boards set up, I won't even waste time on that. I consider it a joke.
In spite of that, the AMCHA Initiative is accomplishing something positve. The problem is gaining exposure, as evidenced by the attached articles, and the pressure on Yudof continues.