The University of California at Irvine has earned a reputation as a campus where anti-Semitism and the vilification of Israel is welcome. In the past, for instance, UCI students have attended graduation ceremonies wearing Hamas paraphernalia. Now some pro-Israel and conservative students are fighting back by utilizing the California Whistleblowers Act.
The students’ complaint centers around administrators who forced the College Republicans on campus to remove their display in a previously reserved space, in order to make room for yet another anti-Israel display on campus. According to the complaint: “On Thursday May 17, 2007, the College Republicans set up their booth in a location 46 as scheduled at 11 AM, but ten minutes later a university administrator from the UCI scheduling and Conferencing Services Department approached the CR’s booth accompanied by a member of the Muslim Students Association on campus demanding the Republicans move their booth and display so the MSU could put in the same previously reserved location two large displays promoting MSU events.”
Anteaters for Israel, a group of UC Irvine students who try to counteract the anti-Israel displays and activities on campus, have joined the College Republicans to complain that the MSU displays were set up specifically because they blocked the view of their pro-Israel displays, silencing the College Republicans by moving them to a less visible area on the campus. The MSU display, once assembled, required students and other passersby to walk around it to traverse that area of the campus.
Although complaints were made to the university’s communications director, Leslie Millerd, who is also part of the Chancellor’s Student Affairs department, she insisted that the College Republicans move -- even after being shown written proof of the advance space reservation made weeks earlier.
The students complaint charges that this is a violation of the US Constitution’s First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” In addition, they say that it violates the school’s own policy, listed as Appendix C, which clearly states:
“The University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy*, disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs and activities.”
As the students see it, university administrators overstepped their bounds by restricting the free speech rights of two other conservative and pro-Israel organizations on campus to the benefit of the MSU.
Another legal basis for the complaint is the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code, sections 51 to 51.3, which also provides equal protection under the law and “full and equal accommodations, advantage to facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Another UCI Campus Policy #42.20, Section D, Paragraph 1 and other campus rules were also violated prohibiting excessively large displays and using more than one banner of an approved size at the event.
For anyone who has seen anti-Israel displays at UCI, they are enormous and designed to inundate the entire area, forcing students to be surrounded by them. Student leaders from both the College Republicans and Anteaters for Israel are demanding that the campus officials involved be investigated, prosecuted and fired.
At the last Palestine Solidarity Movement conference at Georgetown University, in February 2006, seminars were held where attendees were instructed on how to enlist campus administrators in their anti-Israel campaigns. At the University of California at Irvine, they have evidently succeeded.
Still, the question remains: Did UCI officials intentionally hinder conservative and pro-Israel organizations on campus from speaking out? If so, one can only hope that authorities step in to protect the rights that, it seems, some politically motivated faculty will not.
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