RUSS REPORT - A report for the President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion, commissioned in June 2010 by UC President Mark Yudof, was finally released on July 9.
Their findings sparked a firestorm of controversy among students and faculty that included recitations from the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, (NLGSF), the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and seventeen Arab, Muslim, Palestine and Palestinian rights activist organizations at the University of California, (UC) claiming that the adoption of unlawful policies would limit free speech on campuses because of political pressure.
The report was co-authored by Anti-Defamation League national education chairman Richard Barton and NAACP California president Alice Huffman that involved participation from several Jewish students, Jewish faculty and Jewish Organizations on their respective campuses.
The Advisory Council, led by President Yudof and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley, includes affiliated members from each campus and leaders from various constituent and community groups.
The Report specified, among other things, “Jewish students are confronting significant and difficult climate issues as a result of activities on campus which focus specifically on Israel, its right to exist and its treatment of Palestinians. The anti-Zionism and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements and other manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment and activity create significant issues through themes and language which portray Israel and, many times, Jews in ways which project hostility, engender a feeling of isolation, and undermine Jewish students’ sense of belonging and engagement with outside communities. The issue of anti-Zionism activities was a focal point of our discussions with all of the students, Jewish organizations, faculty and administration.”
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization that seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, called for the Report to be tabled until another sound and even-handed report could be conducted. JVP circulated a petition telling Yudof “to disregard the sub-standard and biased report and the poorly considered recommendations that threaten to limit free speech.”
JVP’s Deputy Director, Cecilie Surasky said in a press release, "The UC system is a key battleground for groups that seek to limit criticism of Israeli policies. They are terrified of losing the unconditional support of the next generation and see UC as a testing ground for efforts to silence debate that include intimidating students and professors, making unsubstantiated claims of anti-Semitism against those critical of Israeli policies, encouraging legal action against schools and student protestors and so on.
StandWithUs (SWU), an international, non-profit Israel education organization based in LA supports the Report. SWU circulated a petition urging Yudoff to endorse the Report and to create a campus life that is free of harassment and intimidation.
“It is surprising that anyone would object to this report," says Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. "It records what students and faculty reported as their experiences. Are the opponents trying to deny the reality of these painful experiences? We have been on the front lines of the battle against anti-Israel extremism on campus since it erupted over a decade ago, and these students are describing what we have witnessed.
Free speech and criticism of Israel should always be supported on campuses but not when it undermines the safety and security of other students and creates a climate of hostility. Extremist actions on either side of “Israel issues” do not belong on a publicly funded campus.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles, Co-founders the AMCHA Initiative, have documented dozens of instances of alleged Anti Semitism on campuses over the years.
“For more than a decade, Jewish students have been subjected to: swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti; acts of physical and verbal aggression; speakers, films and exhibits that use anti-Semitic imagery and discourse; speakers that praise and encourage support for terrorist organizations that openly advocate murder against Israel and the Jewish people; the organized disruption of events sponsored by Jewish student groups; and the promotion of student senate resolutions for divestment that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State,” AMCHA reported.
On August 23, California Assembly member, Linda Halderman, M.D. (R-Fresno) introduced … and the Assembly passed … House Resolution 35, a non-binding resolution, asking Campus leaders to take action to address the anti Semitism on their campuses.
"California schools need to recognize that anti-Semitism is still a very real issue on college campuses around the state-it did not disappear with the end of World War II," said Halderman. "This is a problem requiring serious attention on both a campus and system-wide basis. No student should be victimized on campus because he or she practices the Jewish faith."
The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects statements expressing hatred of an ethnic, racial or religious nature including the mention of individuals and the distress those statements can cause. But it does not protect obscenities, defamation, breach of peace, incitement of crimes or sedition. The Supreme Court has said false speech deserves little, if any, First Amendment Protection. Even the California Constitution Article 1 Sec. 2 warns that those who exercise free speech must be responsible for the abuse of that right.
For more than a decade, UC/CSU campuses have done nothing to mitigate these controversies and have allowed extremist behavior to fester on nearly all their campuses ignoring serious concerns and hiding behind “free speech” that jeopardizes the safety of all students. The outcome of this controversy will likely not be resolved any time soon.
(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and to the North Valley Reporter. Katharine Russ can be reached at: Katharine.email@example.com ) –cw