Monday, June 14, 2010

UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended

OC Jewish Experience

Many in our community have waited a long time for UC Irvine officials to take action against the ongoing actions by the Muslim Student Union. Some thought it would never happen. Today’s blog will certainly get your attention. Jewish Federation Orange County announced this morning it has learned the results of UC Irvine’s judicial process. UCI has suspended the Muslim Student Union (MSU) for one year and placed it on disciplinary probation for an additional year. That’s not all. The MSU is also required to collectively complete 50 hours of community service. As a result, it will not be allowed to conduct organized campus events until at least the fall of 2011.

Here is what Shalom Elcott, the President of the Jewish Federation Orange County had to say about the decision.

“We commend the University for its judicious decision in support of free speech and civil discourse. The University’s disciplinary action regarding the MSU establishes an important and appropriate precedent and sends a powerful message to other universities across the nation.”

According to a UCI campus document, suspension means that the recognition of the MSU organization has been revoked. Gone. Done. Additionally the document states that no current executive officer listed on the Dean of Students registration application form will be allowed to act as an “authorized signer” for any other student organization at UC Irvine during the suspension. The effective dates pertaining to the suspension are from September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2011.

How did this come to pass. Let’s go back to events that happened earlier this year.

On February 8, 2010, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren visited the Orange County, California, campus for a planned visit and speech to UCI students and community members. During the 90-minute event, Oren was repeatedly interrupted by members of the Muslim Student Union, 11 of whom were arrested. The investigation into this incident revealed the Muslim Student Union’s well-documented and premeditated plan to prevent Oren from delivering his presentation.

The results of the campus judicial reviews regarding the 11 individual students arrested at the Oren event will not be released by the University. Privacy laws protect the student notifications, so we cannot know the outcome at this time. Unless the students step up and make or challenge the announcement themselves, we may never know how the university has punished them.

Jewish students at UCI, whose campus experience is largely a positive one, have been the target of the Muslim Student Union’s anti-Israeli campaigns and anti-Semitic slurs for years. The MSU, while publicly denying its student programming as being anti-Semitic, brought fringe speakers to the campus just last month. One speaker, Malik Ali, said during a campus speech just steps from the UC Irvine administration building, “Ya’ll (Jews) are the new Nazis.” Ali also confirmed his public support for terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Elcott added….

“While some in the community called for a public boycott of UC Irvine and have condemned the administration, we have always believed in working constructively through the appropriate channels with campus and community leaders. While we would have liked for the administration to have come to this conclusion more quickly, we are pleased that after due process, the MSU has finally been sanctioned. ”

Along with the Jewish Federation, there have been many organizations involved in this battle. They include the Anti Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Hillel.

By involvement, this includes ongoing meetings with campus faculty and staff, meetings with UC Regents, University of California President Mark G. Yudof as well as ongoing discussions with members of Congress. Additionally, the Federation has held continuous meetings with students and key community leaders.

I was able to personally speak with leaders in community and hear what they had to say about this decision.

“When a group spews hate and calls for violence they must be stopped. A public university ought to be a place for civil discourse and vigorous debate, but not a place for vitriol and incitement. I applaud the Chancellor and the University for taking action. Standing up against hate is always right.”

Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot

“These results serve as a reminder that the 1st Amendment is a non-negotiable American value. The MSU must understand that they do not have the authority to control what students can and cannot hear on campus. My family left the Middle East to come to America and realize their dream of freedom and equality, but the same forces that oppressed us there have followed us here. I am proud to see that American universities will not tolerate these attempts to silence or censor the voices of minorities.

I hope this landmark decision will lead to a new beginning between moderate Jewish and Muslim students; one of mutual respect, cooperation, and appreciation for one another.”

Isaac Yerushalmi, UC Irvine Alumnus, Class 2010

“The UCI administration has taken seriously, the on-campus actions of the MSU and their serial disregard for University policies and civil discourse. UCI is an outstanding academic and research University and the talented Jewish students on campus benefit most when members of the broader Jewish community support enhanced educational, leadership and social programming.”

Jeff Margolis Co-chair, Jewish Federation Orange County’s Rose Council.

“UCI’s administration has done the right thing and is to be commended. We can all have faith in the American system because the results show how well it works. The Orange County Jewish Community will continue to bring positive education, programming and discussion to the UCI campus.”

James Weiss, Co-chair, Jewish Federation Orange County’s Rose Council.

“Having heard first-hand of the intimidation prevalent on the UCI Campus and how Jewish students felt the need to hide their religious affiliation, I am happy and relieved to hear of the strong and just action taken by the UCI Administration. Using the banner of “free speech” to browbeat and delegitimize those who feel differently is a perversion of that noble concept and should certainly not be tolerated at our academies of higher learning.”

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine

Jewish Federation Orange County will continue working closely with university leadership to encourage bridge-building programs between Muslim and Jewish students and students of other faiths. Toward this objective, Jewish Federation established the Rose Project in 2008, which provides funding for positive Jewish programming and support to the Jewish students of Orange County college campuses. Student leaders of Anteaters for Israel, Hillel: Jewish Student Union, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority take advantage of many leadership development and Israel education opportunities funded by the Rose Project throughout the academic year. Other endeavors of The Rose Project include the development of a high-level special guest lecture series and bridge-building programs with the Muslim and Christian communities of Orange County.

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