Responses to the Campus Climate Report

In early July, the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion released a report on the UC “campus climate”. The report’s recommendations are presented as having the objective of making Jewish students feel more comfortable on campus. However, the primary effect of adopting the recommendations would be the silencing of pro-Palestinian activism and criticism of Israel.

Days after the report was released, Remi Kanazi outlined some of the problems with it in a piece for Al Jazeera. He pointed out that

from the outset, the Jewish Student Campus Climate report focuses on non-violent protests and speeches critical of Israel … not [on] anti-Jewish bigotry. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the report (excluding the introduction and recommendations) covered “the Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel Movement and its Impact on Climate”.

Specifically, the use of the words “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” to describe Israel’s policies are presented as problematic, while anti-Zionism and the Palestinian civil society calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel are referred to as “manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment on campus”.

As SJP’s Tom Pessah notes in an article for 972 Magazine, the report seems to claim that anti-Israeli sentiment by itself creates an unacceptably hostile climate for Jewish students:

The authors … emphasize that “for many Jewish students, their Jewish cultural and religious identity cannot be separated from their identity with Israel,” and that “pro-Zionist students see an attack on the State of Israel as an attack on [their] individual and personal identity.” The report makes no effort to discuss the validity of these “attacks.” Instead, it calls for “policies that give campus administrators authority to prohibit such activities on campus,” as well as “education” to address “the root causes of harassment.”

At Salon, Ken White argues that this is an attempt by the University of California to ban certain kinds of speech that are “plainly protected by the First Amendment”. The report specifically mentions SJP events such as Israeli Apartheid Week, depictions of apartheid walls, and mock checkpoints.

UC students are collecting signatures for a petition that asks UC President Yudof to reject the recommendations of the report. Please sign it!

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