The University of California Must Protect Civil Rights in the Face of Trump’s Persecution of Muslims, Arabs, and Palestine Activists

UC President Janet Napolitano. Credit:  ASIS International  

UC President Janet Napolitano. Credit: ASIS International 

As Trump’s campaign promises become reality, the University of California (UC) Regents’ so-called “Intolerance Principles” put vulnerable students at risk for increased attacks, warned Palestine Legal and other civil rights organizations in a letter, sent today, to UC President Napolitano and the Board of Regents.

“We take Trump and his surrogates at their word when they pledge to create a Muslim registry and persecute political speech on campuses. It’s time for the UC to step up to its responsibility to protect all students – including Muslims, Arabs, and activists for Palestinian rights,” explained Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal attorney.

The coalition letter is signed by statewide student organizations Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) West, and Muslim Students Association (MSA) West, along with American Muslims for Palestine, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American Islamic Relations Los Angeles, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area.

“It is a shock to hear the Regents’ extended silence regarding anti-Muslim harassment, especially in the same year that the Regents adopted the Intolerance Statement with so much national attention,” the coalition letter notes.

The Regents’ Intolerance Statement condemns “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” It was adopted in March 2016, after years of pressure from Israel advocacy groups to restrict campus speech critical of Israel. The Regents adopted it despite an outcry from students, faculty, First Amendment advocates, and media outlets for its failure to distinguish between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and for its clear intent to suppress anti-Zionist speech. The Intolerance Statement gave scant attention to systemic problems like anti-black racism, sexual assault, and risks to undocumented students. Despite its singular focus on anti-Zionism, the UC has relied on the Intolerance Statement to reassure the campus that administrators are committed to confronting hate.

The coalition letter warns, “[t]he Intolerance Statement has already resulted in suppression of speech and academic freedom across the University of California, and threatens more,” citing violations of the First Amendment at UC Berkeley and UCLA, and threats to speech at UC Irvine.

The coalition letter also details numerous instances of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian harassment that the Regents and the UC President have not addressed, for example: vandalism at UC Riverside targeting graduate student offices, graffiti at UC Irvine with violent threats against SJP and MSA, and posters plastered on numerous UC campuses deploying racist stereotypes and false accusations against individual students and faculty.

The coalition requests that the university immediately take measures to protect against efforts by the Trump administration, and others, to punish political speech.

Read the full coalition letter here.