Thursday, May 10, 2018

An Open Letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman

Dear Chancellor Gillman,

My name is Gary Fouse, and I am a former adjunct lecturer of English as a Second Language at UC Irvine Extension  (1998-2016). I have written to you before about what I perceive as a serious problem of anti-semitism on the UCI campus, and unfortunately, I feel the need to write again.

As you no doubt are aware, on May 3, the College Republicans held an event in which they invited members of the Israeli Defense Force group Reservists on Duty to speak. This coincided with the annual May week of events directed against Israel by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The event in question was disrupted by about ten individuals who were tentatively identified as not being UCI students. In this case a bullhorn was used, which was apparently snuck into the room. Though the dean of students, Rameen Talesh, and several campus police officers were present, the disruption was allowed to proceed for approximately five minutes before the disruptors were ushered out of the room. No arrests were made, and it appears (I could be mistaken here) that the disruptors were not even identified. If that is the case, I ask, "Why not?"

This represents the third consecutive year in May that pro-Israel events have been disrupted. Similar disruptions by SJP and others were carried out against pro-Israel events in May 2016 and 2017. SJP, as you know, is on a two-year probation.

I am not in a position to say that SJP or the MSU had any involvement or connection to the latest disruption on May 3. However, I am troubled by a university spokesperson's quote in the Jerusalem Post that said that no investigation was planned since the disruptors were not students. It is my view that an investigation is required to determine if the disruptors had any connection to any campus individual or groups. I recall in 2010, when MSU students disrupted the speech of Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US (I was present), an extensive investigation proved that the students had planned the event, lied to the university, and tried to cover up their pre-planning of the disruption.

I was not present at the May 3 event, but I was present on campus for a couple of days last week observing the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on Ring Road. While I support free speech, I was struck by the fact that the SJP/MSU demonstrators all covered their faces with Palestinian  keffiyas. In addition, at times their chanting took on a very aggressive tone when they deliberately got in the faces of Reservists on Duty personnel. On Wednesday of that week, one young man got in my face for about five minutes in a deliberate (and unsuccessful) attempt to intimidate me. I videotaped it, and you can see it at the below link:

I wonder what kind of impression that makes on the UCI student body and others who witnessed this behavior.

Aside from disruption and aggressive behavior, there is a larger issue here, two actually.  UCI and many other universities have shown an unwillingness to confront the problem of anti-semitism that really lies behind this entire conflict being played out both in the Holy Land and on US university campuses. For over ten years now, I have seen and heard many speakers come to this campus and make statements that bordered on or crossed the line into pure Jew hatred. I have heard Amir Abdel Malik Ali speak at UCI many times, and many times I have confronted him with this hatred not only of Israel but of America and Jews as people.

What has resulted at UCI and many other campuses including virtually every UC campus is a climate of intimidation for Jewish students, especially those who support Israel. They get it at MSU/SJP events, and they get it in many of their classrooms from their professors.

In 2015 and 2016, I spoke out about these problems at the UC Regents working group at UCI and UCLA. In 2016, the regents adopted a statement of principles that specifically addressed anti-semitism on campus. We considered it a significant victory. As things now stand, it is  to me nothing more than a piece of paper. Incidents like those that occurred the week of April 30-May 3 have continued unabated and the universities do nothing. That includes UCI.

In addition, UCI has demonstrated that conservatives invite speakers and hold events at their own risk of being disrupted by leftist forces that dominate our campuses. When the College Republicans invited Reservists on Duty to appear, it all came together.

That leads me to my second larger issue: What is the state of free speech (for all) at UCI? We know that the SJP and the MSU can put up their so-called apartheid wall and chant deadly slogans into a bullhorn, but what about the ability of pro-Israel groups or conservative groups to express their viewpoints without being disrupted and intimidated by thugs who do not believe in free speech for their opponents? May I remind you that it was you and your former law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who wrote the book ("Free Speech on Campus") on free speech? I have read that book. What I don't understand is how one of the authors of that book could allow a situation like that which exists at UCI. I also find it hard to understand how the UCI Law School can have a chapter of the National Lawyers Guild attached to the school which acted as "legal observers"  when SJP disrupted pro-Israel events in 2016 and 2017 and were present at the "apartheid wall" again in 2018.

I have never understood why the Cross Cultural Center at UCI has for years allowed itself to be used as a staging area for disruptions of pro-Israel events on campus. I complained about it for years when I was working at UCI, but to no avail. In fact, it would have been interesting to see if the May 3 disruptors went to the CCC after the disruption was over. Since the distance between the event in question and the CCC is quite short, it would have been easy to determine with a minimum of surveillance.

I don't mean to come down on the campus police, who did a very good job of keeping the peace during the daytime events. When that young man with his face covered got into my face for five minutes, there were three officers standing right behind me. I appreciated that. I myself am retired from law enforcement, and I realize that campus police have to act under the direction of university officials. That to me is part of the problem.

Chancellor Gillman, I am asking that you initiate a full investigation into the incident that occurred May 3 in order to determine if any UCI people or organizations were involved. I also ask that you take positive steps to combat anti-semitism on your campus and protect free speech for all. I believe in full debate including for those with whom I disagree. The pro-Palestinian side has the right to express their views, but so do those who have a different view. Thuggery, disruption, and intimidation have no place on campus, but it exists, and I have personally seen it and heard it over the course of more than a decade.

I would like to close with a quote:

"We have a psychosis in the Jewish community that is unable to co-exist equally and brotherly with other human beings.  You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew". 

Those words were spoken on February 21, 2001 by an imam named Mohamed al-Asi on Ring Road at UCI.  The video clip is below.

I urge you to live up to the words written in your book.


Gary Fouse


Squid said...

Excellent letter Gary. Hopefully, the Administration will reply sooner than later, with a proactive plan to dispatch the perpetrators of civil rights violations on the UCI campus. One item that I would have included is a mention of the painstakingly slow response time of the UCI campus police. They were in the room where the disruptions occurred and looked more like casual observers rather than fast acting law enforcement personnel.


Gary Fouse said...

It's in the letter.

Anonymous said...

Hello, just curious if you ever received a response to this letter. If so I would be interested in hearing what he said.

Gary Fouse said...

I have not, nor do I expect to. He has never replied to any of my previous letters.