A year after violent protests shut down an event sponsored by pro-Israel students at the University of California at Irvine, another threatening protest at another pro-Israel event generates questions over whether the university is willing to do more than issue statements regarding freedom of speech on campus.
After last year’s protests – which were just the culmination of a series of discriminatory attacks on Israel-supporting Jews throughout the UC system – the Regents of that system endorsed a set of Principles Against Intolerance, the last two of which – points (h) and (i) – declare that “Actions that physically or otherwise interfere with the ability of an individual or group to assemble, speak and share or hear the opinions of others…” and “Harassment, threats, assaults, vandalism, and destruction of property” would not be tolerated.
After last year’s incident, the local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was given a written warning and required to host an educational program related to their behavior. Apparently, this week’s decision to orchestrate the same kind of disruption they were warned about last year is their reply, and amply demonstrates what they think about the university and its rules.
Campus administrators, generally sheepish about taking on organized groups of students, are particularly cautious when confronting the violent behavior of SJP, given their understanding that once they act they can expect to hear immediately from the group’s lawyers. Which means the only thing that can motivate them to enforce their own rules is fear of lawsuits from even better lawyers representing Jewish students on campus.
As the school year winds to a close, we can expect the administration to run out the clock with deliberations that will continue after all the students involved on both sides of this week’s fiasco have gone home. One hopes that during this period they will develop the backbone required to enforce their own rules in the face of groups like SJP that have decided to demonstrate to the entire community who they think is in charge of the school. But, failing that, I have a modest recommendation for a new approach that’s not been tried yet.
Under this new proposed policy, rather than reject harassment and intimidation on campus, those kinds of activities should instead be enshrined as the new norm to be embraced and encouraged by administrators and students alike. Such a policy can be implemented by simply taking the original Chancellor’s “Principles Against Intolerance” and swapping “will not be tolerated” whenever it appears with “is both tolerated and encouraged.”
Now such a policy could discriminate against student organizations without the numbers or aggression required to put together a decent mob big enough and violent enough to shut down events put on by students with whom they disagree. But this problem could be easily solved by allowing student organizations to use part of the campus activities budget they are allocated each year to hire professional harassers to fatten up their own mobs and ensure equitable levels of aggression targeting any speaker or event on campus.
Such a policy could have positive economic impact, creating gainful employment opportunities for thugs living at or near University of California locations who can be regularly hired as members of rent-a-mobs. No doubt enterprising temporary employment agencies will spring up to facilitate the appropriate allocation of violent protesters at all controversial campus events (with “controversial” remaining a term that any student group is free to define and interpret based on its own preferences).
The only alternative I can think of to the current “all-talk-no-action” policy at places like UC Irvine and the simple alternative I propose is that the school provide students a list of which groups and issues are allowed to participate in the kinds of violent, harassing behavior now becoming standard at pro-Israel events on campus – essentially creating guidelines that says who is allowed to discriminate against whom.
Such a policy would represent an official imprimatur on bigotry, but at least it would be more honest than the de facto one currently in place.