Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An Open Letter to Janet Napolitano

Below is a letter I have just sent to University of California President Janet Napolitano in regards to the May 18 disruption of a Jewish event at UC Irvine and the just announced suspension of the UCI Campus Republicans over their sponsorship of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Dear President Napolitano,

My name is Gary Fouse. Since 1998, I have taught English as a second language in the UC Irvine Extension. However, I am writing you this letter as a private citizen and not as a representative of the UCI Extension. I should also note that I am writing this as an open letter, which I will publicly disseminate. My purpose in writing is two-fold: First, I am writing to tell you that in my view, UCI is not conforming to the Statement of Principles on Intolerance recently issued by the UC Regents as they specifically apply to anti-Semitism. The May 18 disruption of a film event held by Students Supporting Israel shows that anti-Semitic harassment continues at UCI. This is an on-going story that I have been actively following and witnessing at UCI since 2007. Secondly, I am writing to protest the unfair and unjustified suspension of the College Republicans at UCI following the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos event. Though I am not prepared to make any accusations at this time, I suspect there just might be a link between the two cases.

The May 18 action against Students Supporting Israel was principally carried out by Students for Justice in Palestine, using what I consider to be Brown Shirt tactics according to several accounts. Worse yet, there are two aspects of this incident that are even more disturbing. First of all, according to the report of the incident by UCI's New University newspaper, certain individuals identified themselves as legal observers for the National Lawyers Guild attached to the UCI Law School. (They did not give their names.) They were demanding that the unruly protesters be allowed into the venue. I have confirmed through open source documents that NLG does have an affiliation with the UCI Law School. (The NLG was founded in the 1930s as a legal arm of the Communist Party USA.) It seems appropriate to me that Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky make a public  statement as to the role people in his program played in this disruption. To my knowledge no statement has been forthcoming. In addition, I think he owes an apology to the Students Supporting Israel on behalf of his department. Below is a link to the referenced New University article:

Secondly, according to a statement by the National Lawyers Guild itself, the "legal observers" accompanied the protesters and that the protesters "walked back to the Cross Cultural Center as a group..." after the event was concluded. Below is a link to their statement:

Once again, students disrupting Jewish, pro-Israel events have used the UCI Cross Cultural Center as a staging area. The Muslim Student Union did it in 2010 when they disrupted the Michael Oren (Israeli ambassador to the US) speech. MSU and SJP did it in May of 2014 and May 2015 when they disrupted the annual I(srael) Fest. (I personally witnessed both of the latter two events.) In response to the 2015 incident, I wrote a letter to UCI's administration protesting this use of CCC by certain groups to disrupt events held by other groups. I subsequently met with the then-director of CCC. My efforts produced no results as evidenced by this latest misuse of CCC, a  campus institution that is supposed to represent all students.

It should be mentioned at this juncture that the May 18 disruption of the SSI event was witnessed by several members of the College Republicans. They videotaped portions of the disruptions and fully supported the Jewish students.

Yet, the university itself went into a defensive mode arguing that in spite of the incident, there was no problem of anti-Semitism at UCI. Predictably, they recruited their allies in the Orange County Jewish Federation, Hillel, and the Rose Project, all entities who for years have denied the problem at UCI and obstructed the efforts of community members and Jewish students to speak out on what is happening on campus and inform the local community. These organizations, who are so embedded within the university that they have a conflict of interest, reverted to their old mantra that "Jewish life is thriving at UCI". It was not thriving on May 18. It was not thriving when Ambassador Oren's speech was disrupted. It is never thriving each May when the anti-Israel week of events is held and inflammatory speakers come to campus to spread their venom. All too often, they have crossed over from criticism of Israel to criticism of Jews (ex. Mohamad al Asi, Amir Abdul Malik Ali, Abdul Amin Musa). Free speech? Of course, but the university has a right to speak out and condemn anti-Semitic statements-specifying who said what.

So now comes this suspension of the College Republicans for some technicality that they did not provide the school with documentation of private security insurance for the Yiannopoulos event. The university has issued a statement that the College Republicans are not actually suspended (the initial notification says they were suspended) , but only that they cannot rent room space and/or hold events for a year.

That essentially limits the organization to holding bake sales on Ring Road. They have been rendered basically useless especially in a presidential election year when they would want to be particularly active. The hair-splitting by the UCI administration does not hold water.

I also question the fairness of this punishment as contrasted with previous violations of university policy. In 2009, the MSU invited British politician George Galloway to speak at UCI. During the event, baskets were passed  around the room for donations to Galloway's Viva Palestina convoys to Gaza even though no approval had been granted to use the event as a fund raiser. I was present and witnessed it as did a university official who was in the room. Was MSU suspended for that? No. In 2010, MSU was suspended for one year as a consequence of the planned Oren disruption. Yet the suspension was reduced to one quarter by the then vice chancellor of student affairs on his last day in office before retiring.

It seems to me that the College Republicans are receiving disproportionate punishment for their "violation" as compared and contrasted with other student organizations. I also ask myself whether the fact that the College Republicans actively supported SSI in the May 18 incident and apparently cooperated with the blog, Campus Reform, in publicizing what happened might have played a role in their punishment.

These two cases illustrate what the public is now waking up to-that our universities are not giving fair treatment to all sides. As a concerned Gentile, I have become increasingly concerned about the spread of Jew hatred around the world. In the US, the focal point for that Jew hatred is on our college campuses. The University of California system has had more than its share of ugly, anti-Semitic incidents over the years. I do not see university leadership confronting it-obviously for fear of offending the pro-Palestinian lobby on our campuses, which includes students, faculty, and outside speakers who all too often have crossed the lines of civil discourse.

In addition, no sane person would try to argue that conservatives get a fair hearing on college campuses. The treatment meted out to the UCI College Republicans leads me to at least suspect that they are being treated severely because they represent conservative thought. The UCI administration went overboard in condemning the Yiannopoulos event (unfairly in my view) even before it happened, offering a "safe zone" for students who would be offended by Yiannopoulos'  supposed "bigotry"

I am respectfully requesting that you or your delegated representative(s) look into these matters and determine whether all students-of all backgrounds, religions, and beliefs- are being treated equally on our campus.

I ask you to investigate the reason why people associated with the UCI Law School participated in an unruly disruption of a Jewish student event.

I also request that you ask the CCC why they have allowed their building to be used-for years- as a staging area for anti-Israel protesters to engage in disruptive tactics of Jewish events that support Israel .

I also request that you launch an investigation into SJP and their tactics. As you may or may not know, SJP was co-founded by UC Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian, a man who in 2004 called for an intifada in the US during a public speech. We have enough "intifadas" to deal with in this country, and we certainly don't need any intifadas on our campuses.

The Statement of Principles on Intolerance was a good first step, but without action, it is just a piece of paper. The problem persists, and if it is not confronted and remedied, someday there will be a tragedy on one of the UC campuses, if not some other university.

The University of California at Irvine is in most respects a great institution. There are, however, issues that need to be addressed, and I have just raised two of them. I thank you for your attention.


Gary Fouse


UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman
UCI Vice Chancellor Thomas Parham
UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
UCI Cross Cultural Center Director Jade Agua
UCI College Republicans
UCI Students Supporting Israel
Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative
Susan Tuchman, Zionist Organization of America, Legal Director
Ted Bleiweis, Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism


Squid said...

Thus is an excellent piece Gary. Hopefully, this well written letter will gain traction among decision makers at high levels of the UC system. As you pointed out, the difference between the unconstitutional behavior of the MSU and SJP on the UCI campus, far out does the relatively mild over-site of notifying UCI Administration about a minor issue. The UCI Administration should be ordered to apologize the the campus Republicans and recent the Marilyn Mosby like over prosecution of the group.


Gary Fouse said...

Thanks, Squid.

UCI has really screwed up here. Now that they have "lifted the suspension", the CRs are refusing to file an appeal. That puts the ball back in UCI's court. What do they do now-reinstate the suspension?

It's great to see the UCI CRs back in action after years of being dormant.

Squid said...

"What do they do now-reinstate the suspension?"

The Administrators will bring in a student counsel consisting of Erwin Chemerisky's UCI Lawyers Guild. That should take care of the Conservative Campus Republicans.


P.S. Psychologists call this statement: Paradoxical Intent.

Gary Fouse said...

I call it incomptetance and stupidity.