Apology to SJP from UCLA’s Graduate Students Association, Renewed Commitment to Free Speech

February 11, 2016 - UCLA’s Graduate Students Association (GSA) issued an apology for engaging in viewpoint discrimination against supporters of Palestinian rights, and adopted a constitutional amendment to clarify policies protecting free speech.

The GSA delivered an unlawful directive to organizers of a Diversity Town Hall event in October 2015, requiring the event to have “zero connection” to supporters of divestment from Israel as a condition of funding.

Palestine Legal, along with the ACLU of Southern California and the Center for Constitutional Rights demanded that the University fix the unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

In response, UCLA Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs provided policy guidance to the GSA to clarify that funding restrictions on certain viewpoints are not permitted under the First Amendment and University of California policy. The GSA then amended its constitution, recommitted to protecting free speech, and apologized to the affected students. A copy of the GSA resolution is available here.

Students for Justice in Palestine said in a statement they are pleased the administration “stated unequivocally that viewpoint discrimination is impermissible, engaged in First Amendment training, and committed to revising policies to be more clear going forward.”

This incident is a telling example of the “Palestine exception” to free speech on campus. Students at UCLA were denied equal access to university resources, stigmatized, and forced to take time away from their studies and their activism in order to defend their right to speak. Palestine Legal will continue to monitor the pattern of discrimination against students and scholars who advocate for Palestinian rights.

For more details on this incident, please see the UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine statement, and Palestine Legal’s post and letter to UCLA from November 2015