San Francisco State U to Launch Investigation After Jewish Groups Denounce Shout-Down of Jerusalem Mayor’s Speech
The president of San Francisco State University (SFSU) announced on Thursday that the university would launch a “full investigation” into the disruption by anti-Israel protesters of Wednesday’s campus lecture by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, The Algemeiner has learned.
In a letter to the SFSU campus community, President Leslie Wong wrote that he was concerned about the state of “civil discourse” on the campus, and decried the fact that members of the community were deprived of the opportunity to hear from the Mayor. After acknowledging the “right to dissent,” he emphasized the additional right “to speak and to learn,” and continued:
The Dean of Students and University Police will perform a full investigation of this incident to determine if any violations of campus policy occurred. In addition, I am committed to examining the university’s planning and response mechanisms to better ensure that student events of this nature can occur unimpeded in the future.
Wong’s letter came shortly after leaders of major Jewish advocacy groups had communicated with senior university administrators, expressing their dismay at the disruption.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), the international Jewish human rights organization, spoke earlier in the day with the Vice Chancellor of the California State University system, according to an SWC statement. In the call, Hier denounced the protesters’ actions as an assault on free speech and recommended that the university’s investigation include determining whether the disruption violated any California state laws. He reminded the administrator that ten pro-Palestinian students were convicted in an Orange County court for disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine in 2011, as reported by The Algemeiner.
Early Thursday, as well, Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut joined with officials from the San Francisco Hillel in writing to President Wong. In the letter, obtained by The Algemeiner, the authors conveyed their distress that “the university permitted a student organization to prevent the rest of the community from participating in conversation with an invited lecturer,” and condemned the failure to “uphold the rights and standards of free speech, academic freedom and academic responsibility on campus.” They urged that SFSU undertake a full administrative and legal investigation into the conduct of the protesters and discipline all those found to be in violation of university norms or local or state laws.
The San Francisco Hillel, which had sponsored Barkat’s lecture, also issued its own statement, condemning the event, and noting that,
There is a concerning trend that college campuses are not spaces where diverse viewpoints are tolerated. Recently, we have seen acts of outright hostility and physical aggression when one person did not agree with the views of another on campus.
Wednesday’s disruption featured student activists carrying pro-Palestinian flags and wearing checkered kaffiyehs, according to International Business Times, and raising their fists as they shouted “Intifada!,” a word many associate with violent attacks on Israelis. They also chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!,” widely recognized as a call for the destruction of Israel. Police were called to the scene, and security guards were called to protect the Mayor.
In the past two years there have been numerous similar disruptions of campus lectures by Israelis or pro-Israel speakers, including at the University of California Davis, the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota Law School, the University of Texas Austin, King’s College (London), the University of Windsor, the University of South Florida, and at an LGBTQ Shabbat event in Chicago.