Lawfare Project, AMCHA Initiative, and Others Call Upon UCLA to Address Discriminatory Harassment by Students for Justice in Palestine
Yesterday, at UCLA’s Board of Regents meeting, the AMCHA Initiative delivered a letter from The Lawfare Project and six other organizations calling upon the Regents, President Janet Napolitano, and Chancellor Gene Block to address the campaign of discriminatory harassment and intimidation by UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), targeting Jewish students. In addition to AMCHA and The Lawfare Project, the letter was signed by the Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, and the Zionist Organization of America. The full text can be read below.
Following a failed attempt in February to secure the UCLA student government’s endorsement of an anti-Israel divestment resolution, SJP members recently began calling for investigation of student council members who have taken trips to Israel sponsored by three Jewish organizations. SJP further demanded that student government candidates sign a “joint ethics statement” pledging not to go on such trips while in office.
UCLA administration reportedly responded that it “was leaving the matter to be resolved by students.”
In the letter, The Lawfare Project and other organizations wrote, “This is an outrageous and impermissible violation of students’ right to free expression, their right to free association and their fundamental right to travel and move freely,” adding that “[t]he SJP’s motive is clear: to manipulate the composition of the student government so it is filled with anti-Israel activists who support the SJP’s hateful agenda.”
Moreover, SJP’s attempt to prevent Jewish students from having equal access to positions in student government violates Section 102.11 of UCLA’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits “conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”
SJP chapters at universities nationwide have come under fire for engaging in discriminatory harassment and intimidation against pro-Israel Jewish students. Earlier this month, The Lawfare Project and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a letter urging New York University administration to discipline SJP members who slid mock eviction notices under the doors of private student dorm rooms.
As The Lawfare Project noted in its letter to NYU, failure of university administration to adequately address pervasive and ongoing discriminatory conduct may give rise to liability under federal civil rights legislation. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal funds, as does UCLA, and indeed “applies to discrimination on the basis of Jewish ethnicity or ancestry.”
The text of the letter to UCLA begins below:
To: University of California Los Angeles Chancellor Gene Block
University of California President Janet Napolitano
University of California Board of Regents
May 15, 2014
Dear Chancellor Block, President Napolitano and UC Board of Regents:
We are deeply concerned about the behavior of a registered student group at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
In an attempt to target, harass and intimidate pro-Israel Jewish students at UCLA, SJP members recently launched a campaign calling for a Judicial Board investigation of student council members who have taken trips to Israel sponsored by Jewish organizations. The SJP also demanded that candidates for student government positions sign a statement pledging that they will not go on any trip to Israel sponsored by three Jewish organizations.
The SJP has targeted only Israel. And it has targeted three Jewish organizations that sponsor trips to Israel. Not a single church or mosque that pays for or sponsors Israel trips was singled out.
This is an outrageous and impermissible violation of students’ right to free expression, their right to free association, and their fundamental right to travel and move freely. The SJP cannot be permitted to infringe on any student’s personal liberties and freedoms, or to bully students into not associating with certain Jewish groups that are dedicated to building love and support for Israel.
The SJP’s motive is clear: to manipulate the composition of the student government so that it is filled with anti-Israel activists who support the SJP’s hateful agenda. This is the SJP’s latest effort to harass, intimidate and bully pro-Israel Jewish students. The group’s shenanigans plainly follow from the SJP’s failed attempt to get the student government to endorse an anti-Israel divestment resolution last February.
Since the ASUC rejected the SJP’s divestment resolution, members of the SJP have engaged in what one Jewish student leader has described as a campaign of hatred and bullying directed “toward both the Jewish community and council members that voted against the resolution.” Some students who opposed the anti-Israel divestment resolution reportedly feel uncomfortable even walking on campus because of the hate mail they have received. According to the Jewish student leader, “Rather than dealing with their frustrations as a result of the failure of the resolution, members of SJP continue to target their anger at the Jewish community.”
The SJP is the only university-funded student organization at UCLA whose very mission targets an ethnic minority for hatred and vilification and whose activities routinely harass, intimidate, threaten and seek to silence members of that ethnic minority on campus.
The SJP’s conduct violates the UCLA Principles of Community which state:
We do not tolerate acts of discrimination, harassment, profiling or other conduct causing harm to individuals on the basis of expression of race, color, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religious beliefs, political preference, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or national origin among other personal characteristics. Such conduct violates UCLA’s Principles of Community and may result in imposition of sanctions according to campus policies governing the conduct of students, staff and faculty.
The SJP’s conduct also violates Section 102.11 of UCLA’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits harassment, defined as “conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”
The SJP’s scheme to prevent pro-Israel Jewish students from having equal access to positions in the student government is a disgraceful violation of the Code.
UCLA’s Code of Conduct and its Principles of Community are more than just words; they demand action. Indeed, UCLA’s standards of conduct may be higher than what the law would require. According to the Code, the regulations it contains were “developed to create and maintain a safe, supportive, and inclusive campus community” – values that the SJP is completely indifferent to and does not support.
As leaders of UCLA, you have a duty to stop to the SJP’s acts of wanton discrimination, harassment and bullying, and its deliberate interference with students’ rights and freedoms. We call on you to protect the safety and well-being of Jewish students at UCLA and hold SJP members accountable for their shameful misconduct.
Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel
The Lawfare Project
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach
Stand With Us
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: Charles Alexander, UCLA Associate Vice Provost, Student Diversity
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California State Senator Holly Mitchell (District 26)
California Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (District 54)
California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education
California Assembly Member Das Williams, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education
Members of California Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Members of California Legislative Jewish Caucus
California Jewish Community Leaders