• October 23, 2014

UC-Irvine Suspends Muslim Student Group for Disrupting Speech

The University of California at Irvine has suspended the campus's Muslim Student Union for one year and placed the group on disciplinary probation after members of the group repeatedly interrupted a campus speech in February by Israel's ambassador to the United States, according to a letter released on Monday.

The hecklers shouted down the ambassador, Michael Oren, at times calling him a "killer" and scuttling parts of the speech. Video of the event drew international attention and sparked a debate about the tactics of the protesters, who said they were angry about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

A university review found that the group had planned the disruption in advance, and that it had violated a number of campus policies, including disruption of university activities and disorderly conduct. The group will be banned from the campus until at least September 2011, and its members will be required to complete 50 hours of community service, according to the letter, supplied by the university in response to a public-records request.

A campus spokeswoman, Cathy Lawhon, said the university would not yet comment on the findings because the matter is confidential and the Muslim Student Union still has the option to appeal the findings to the dean of students.

A lawyer for the student group, Reem Salahi, said the letter would have a "massive chilling effect" and that she hoped the university's decision would be overturned on appeal. "What does it mean to suspend an organization that represents hundreds of Muslims on campus? … What you're recommending is depriving those students of the right to associate," she said.

The evidence presented against the group in the university's letter was flawed, Ms. Salahi said, a matter the group had raised in its appeal. "A lot of the evidence was anonymous—we don't know who was testifying. A lot of the evidence was redacted. We don't know what was said in full."

Comments

1. studfinsvcs - June 14, 2010 at 04:09 pm

If they want to protest Israel so bad, why don't they go there? Sick and tired of their agenda. This is the U.S. not the Middle East. They need to learn their own history and genealogy. Arabs and Jews are half brothers. It always amazes me how the non-arab muslims join the hate for Israel when it's really not their problem. But that is Islam for you. Go figure... "peaceful except towards Jews".

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2. profmomof1 - June 14, 2010 at 04:16 pm

Good for UCI. It's rude, immature, and inappropriate for students to interrupt an invited speaker in this way. If they want their own views presented, they can invite and pay for their own speaker. It would seem that the problem with these spoiled children is that they just did not want any other viewpoint but their own presented. That's not what college is about.

3. lslerner - June 14, 2010 at 04:18 pm

Universities are places for civilized discourse, not shouting matches. Unfortunately, this principle is breached from time to time, and not always by folks from primitive countries. But the university acted very properly in taking punitive action.

4. 12111360 - June 14, 2010 at 05:26 pm

Good for the University of California at Irvine!

There is NO excuse for ANY group/individuals to disrupt speech, unless it is through silent means (holding up signs, banners, etc.). Not allowing an invited speaker of any political/religious/social persuasion to have his/her say is an affront to both free speech rights and basic civility. the means to protest objectionable speech is not to abrogate speech, but MORE speech. The outrageous conduct by the members of the Muslim Student Union can not be tolerated.

Having said that, one can only hope that UC Irvine will enforce the same rules of conduct against "professional hecklers" from groups like By All Means Necessary (BAMN) who have made it their mission to shout down speakers like Ward Connerly -- or any speaker, for that matter, who believes in Martin Luther King's dream of a colorblind America.

Yet I won't hold my breath. When it comes to the highly politicized academy, double standards are alive and well. That is, egregious incivility on the part of protesters is often tolerated, even condoned, if the speaker is not in conformity with the prevailing political orthodoxy.

5. chemmilt - June 14, 2010 at 06:25 pm

The disruption reminds me of a quote from a noted scientist. To paraphrase, he said something like this: "The evil will do evil and the good will do good. For the good to do evil, that takes religion."

People who subscribe to a group preaching intolerance should realize that there are (or definitely should be!) consequences. Infringements on free speech such as this are nothing less than an abomination. To the intolerant of any religion I would say, "A plague on all your houses."

6. admin07analyst - June 14, 2010 at 06:49 pm

I want to caution everyone who wants to jump on the muslim student group. What they did is wrong, absolutely.....but to studfinsvcs, I've been at two campuses where the Jewish student organizations have been just as guilty as the Muslim student organizations of disruption and bigotry. Academia is about presenting and exploring ideas, as well as free expression. No one should be silenced on expressing what they feel, as long as it's not "hate speech" and nor incites violence. My current campus has had a Muslim student group boo and intimidate an Israeli government minister while on stage, but has also had the jewish student group disrupt a Palestinian speaker, as well as barricade the entrance to not allow him to leave.

This isn't about who's right, because we all have beliefs and will fall on one side or another. It's about respecting a group's right to bring a speaker or host an event, and for others to enjoy that event without disruption. If you cannot do so, then you do not belong on a college/university campus. If you don't like what they are doing, then protest legally.......outside of the event, carry placards, etc....but do not disturb others.

Carson

7. tom_muentzer - June 14, 2010 at 07:03 pm

On issues related to Islam, CHE's articles (especially when written by Carlin Romano), as well as comments boards, are beginning to resemble my local newspaper's. And that's not a compliment. Muhammed "was a pedofile [sic]" and Muslims and Arabs come from "primitive countries"?! As I recall, though, CHE distributed an anti-Muslim DVD a year or so ago ("Obsession"), claiming that to do otherwise would be to infringe upon free speech. On the issues raised in the article: Of course, shutting down a speaker is not the most effective means of protest, as you thereby surrender the moral high ground, in the view of many people. But yet, one senses from the animus in some of the above posts that they regard the actions of the college protestors as far more offensive than, say, Israel's killing of nine civilians on the ship two weeks ago. We can't always (and shouldn't necessarily try to) keep our campuses completely isolated from and de-sensitized to the real world, where certain injustices are far graver than the shouting down of the Israeli ambassador.

8. physicsprof - June 14, 2010 at 07:56 pm

"one senses from the animus in some of the above posts that they regard the actions of the college protestors as far more offensive than, say, Israel's killing of nine civilians on the ship two weeks ago"

Tom (#7), and in fact they are. If you watch the video of the incident (http://www.huliq.com/1/video-shows-detailed-freedom-flotilla-attack-near-gaza-557) you will see that "civilians" attacked Israeli soldiers with metal bars and firebombs and they did so with multiple attackers assaulting individual targets (inflicting injuries). By the laws on the books in US those actions would constitute assault with lethal force, with the legal consequence being that responding to lethal force with lethal force is justified. Note that a US citizen killing a civilian gangbanger who assaults him with lethal force would indeed be less offensive than "the actions of the college protestors" for a simple reason that the later is an offence (albeit mild) while the former is absolutely not.

9. 12111360 - June 14, 2010 at 08:01 pm

To commentator #7:

The article - and the responses prior to yours - is about the Muslim student union at UC Irvine. It is about competing ideas being silenced on our nation's campuses. To throw the Flotillas into the discussion, and thereby the complex issue of the Israelis' blockade of Gaza, is a disingenuous attempt to redirect the debate. This is evidenced by the bold and illogical speculation that the commentators before you "regard the actions of the college protesters as far more offensive than, say, Israeli's killing of nine civilians on the ship two weeks ago." How do you get from campus speech to the Gaza blockade? Just a rhetorical question, Sir. Conflating unrelated issues for the purposes political incitement is an age-old tactic in today's academy. Socrates would be very displeased with you. If you were a student of mine, I'd tell you to please stick with the topic.

10. goodeyes - June 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm

The speech should have been postponed as this is a very sensitive time.

11. boiler - June 15, 2010 at 08:13 am

To #10:

Exactly when in the past thirty years has it not been "a very sensitive time"?

12. dank48 - June 15, 2010 at 08:24 am

Goodeyes has to be kidding, not to mention imprecise. What is a "very sensitive time"? 12111360 has it right, imo.

Liberal representative democracy is based on tolerance of all points of view, but that does not mean it has to be tolerant of intolerance. Free speech does not have to wait until the time is perfect for its expression. Certain groups demand liberty for themselves while categorically denying it to others. The university acted correctly, fairly, and properly.

Islam in itself is one thing; Muslims have the same right to practice their religion--in this country, anyway--as anyone else. Islam is not the issue; the deliberate misuse of religion for political purposes is. That is hardly exclusive to Islam, of course; consider the abuse of Judeo-Christian texts to rationalize prejudice against gays, for example.

But I think the placard held up by a protester in NYC puts the matter in a nutshell: "You can build a mosque at Ground Zero when we can build a synagogue in Mecca." It's time to end the double standard for Islam, and it's time for Islam to grow up, along with the other world religions that are getting past justifying bigotry in the name of God.

13. tridaddy - June 15, 2010 at 08:40 am

"That is hardly exclusive to Islam, of course; consider the abuse of Judeo-Christian texts to rationalize prejudice against gays, for example."

Humans are fallable and do take things out of context, but I believe the actual context (prejudice) is the "sin" not the "sinner".

Sorry for being a little off topic but the statement warranted a response.

14. supertatie - June 15, 2010 at 09:39 am

No, it should NOT have been postponed. Can you imagine arguing that there should have been no speeches about slavery before the Civil War? No speeches about civil rights in the 1960s? No speeches about the growing threats to Europe's liberties after Hitler took power in Germany?

Nor do I think that the Gaza flotilla issue is irrelevant, as it is among the events that are inflaming passions on both sides. (It is also, regrettably, further proof of the fact that the press seems determined to be part of the Palestinian propaganda machine, repeating lies that have been amply disproven by videotapes of the confrontation, cropped Reuters photos, and huge seized weapons caches.)

As far as universities are concerned, there are two issues here, both vital to the relevance of institutions of higher education.

First, students, faculty and staff need to understand that a university is a place where unpopular ideas are heard. If our higher education culture were not so steeped in ideological groupthink (e.g., "Palestinians good! Jews bad!"), this would be less difficult to grasp.

Second, there is a way, time, and place for objection to viewpoints with which one disagrees. I hate to say this, but Leftists on campuses across the country have taken to disrupting, shouting down and obstructing speeches by anyone who takes a position they do not like. Speakers defending things like free market capitalism or Israel's right to exist now have to be accompanied by security personnel on campuses, and have to endure the disruption or outright cancellation of their speeches. If they go forward anyway, they risk having things physically thrown at them. This is appallingly bad behavior.

Anyone who objects to the content of a speaker's presentation should be welcome to offer an opposing perspective, in a civilized and articulate fashion. If we have not instilled that value, and that ability in our students, then this is among OUR shortcomings as educators.

15. updoc101 - June 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Once again, the irrationality, hatred and bigotry of religion poisons everything. Between Christianity, the religion of love, and Islam, the religion of peace, I hardly know where to hide.

16. jaysanderson - June 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

An uncharacteristically bold and justified action on the part of UC-Irvine. There appears to be some courage in the hearts of administrators there.

17. chron7 - June 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

I've been to UCI and seen this group causing other problems. The group is based on anger rather than peaceful action.

18. mart7624 - June 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

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19. manlovesa - June 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Although the groups actions are disturbing this tough reaction from the university did make me wonder what else this group has done. For a first offense this seems rather drastic. To those of you who made offensive comments about the Muslim religion here, shame on you. All religions have their crackpot groups who make the most noise. To assume these crackpot groups speak for the majority of a religion, region, or country isn't reasonable. In particular to say that Islam is a totalitarian ideology determined to destroy western civilization for 14 centuries is a dangerously unhelpful biased representation. The world is not now, nor has ever been that black and white.

20. rickinchina09 - June 15, 2010 at 01:19 pm

This is most welcome news. There was a time, of course, when this would not have been news at all, either because it would never have happened on a college campus or everyone would expect such disrespectful behavior to be immediately denounced and punished. Alas, now, we can only hope that other institutions of higher learning will take their cue from UC-Irvine and extend the same measure of response to conservative speakers who are routinely and roundly abused from the audience. I said one can hope.

21. mainiac - June 15, 2010 at 01:51 pm

Sharia Law is coming to a University near you.....

22. dboyles - June 15, 2010 at 02:36 pm

My Muslim students as well as many of the foreign graduate students of various religions and nationalities I have taught over the years are always rather surprised by such examples. They initially regard the US very idealistically as a place of "free speech" without boundaries where honestly held opinions are able to be freely expressed without reservation. They soon come to hold a much more cynical opinion of just what is possible under the blanket phrase of "free speech." And with it I note that they come to regard the US as a place of hypocrisy for saying one thing but doing another. Perhaps their initial ideals are unrealistically and naively high. On the other hand, perhaps the reality of "free speech" is a misnomer and might better be "limited speech rights."

23. davi2665 - June 15, 2010 at 02:50 pm

For #22- so the US is a place of hypocrisy and is disillusioning to muslim students. Free speech is still available when not accompanied by either violence or the suppression of other's expression of the same. Perhaps these students would be more comfortable expressing their protests in a muslim dictatorship where disruptive protest is not met with a suspension of a student organization but with death or imprisonment. Similar to the wonderful example of respect for the rights of women from these zealots and hatemongers. Good for UC Irvine- it's about time someone had the courage to do what is right.

24. meshabob - June 15, 2010 at 03:01 pm

Well, Irvine should be grateful that the students didn't bomb the university in the fashion that the IDF did in Gaza.

25. rsmulcahy - June 15, 2010 at 05:14 pm

Ah, another pointless discussion on the limits of free speech, delightful to watch the wheels spin, heading in no useful direction. Human beings are so cute when they try to define "the Truth" of how the world should work, as least that is what I imagine alien anthropologists would say upon encountering our species. I guess it is unavoidable the humans will endlessly create completely arbitrary ideological worldviews and then try to foist them off as "natural facts." This is clearly demonstrated when people shout at each other about what should count as "credible" forms of communication or "speech acts" (aka a brick through the window) as they are sometimes framed, though that discussion comes across as down right rational compared to the absolute nonsense of trying to figure out whose Sky Fairy is most powerful or has the proper deeds to particular pieces of the ground. But I digress, I really wanted to comment on #3 who wrote:

"Universities are places for civilized discourse, not shouting matches. Unfortunately, this principle is breached from time to time, and not always by folks from primitive countries."

Fascinating, can I get a list of those primitive societies so that I might travel there and teach them how to be more like us, a highly civilized nation that suffers more murders than any other country and incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth. I am sure those primitive folk will be right 'ppreciative of that teachin and such.

26. mainiac - June 15, 2010 at 06:28 pm

too easy.....apart from racist hyperbole.

"Ah, another pointless discussion on the limits of free speech, delightful to watch the wheels spin, heading in no useful direction."

"Fascinating, can I get a list of those primitive societies so that I might travel there and teach them how to be more like us, a highly civilized nation that suffers more murders than any other country and incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth. I am sure those primitive folk will be right 'ppreciative of that teachin and such."

27. chandrak - June 16, 2010 at 02:05 am

It is a surprise that The University of California at Irvine had the courage to suspend the campus's Muslim Student Union for disrupting speech. Muslim individuals, organizations and other muslim entities get away with anything in the United States. The U.S. administration and courts are lenient to muslim groups. Justice should be done consistently and equally for all. I congratulate the UC for taking appropriate action in this matter and not to let go.

28. rickinchina09 - June 16, 2010 at 09:36 am

dboyles:

Evidently, then, you have abdicated your responsibility as an academic to assist your students in discerning between acts of free speech and acts of intimidation. Well done, professor.

29. rhancuff - June 16, 2010 at 01:36 pm

It seems many of the commenters here are having trouble distinguishing among several different particulars: Islam as a religion practiced in many societies (except for #18, who simply tells us, all evidence aside, that it's not a religion), nations that have instituted policies based on their interpretations of Islamic codes, and murderers who claim to be adhering to their version of Islam. Of course, the article is actually about none of the above, but rather about UC-Irvine suspending a student group for disrupting a speech.

It's reasonable that the university should be allowed to suspend a group's charter if it has interfered with university sponsored business. On the flip-side, the group should consider it the price of civil disobedience...that's why it's civil disobedience...and that act draws attention to the debate over whether the Israeli ambassador is a) representative of a noble M.E. democracy or b) emissary of an evil repressive regime or c) somewhere in the middle.

30. dboyles - June 16, 2010 at 03:51 pm

#28

Abdication of responsibility? Are you unaware that over the past decades in the US the courts have circumscribed 'academic freedom' and gerrymandered it to be the right of institutions, rather than individual faculty alone? Secondly, faculties in public universities have increasingly been reduced to state employees who risk disciplinary action if they challenge administration, as numerous articles in the Chronicle attest. Thirdly, faculty can be censured if they speak to issues outside of their formally assigned duties in the course of their employment. Perhaps your area is political science; mine is physical science. It is neither my responsibility nor a right extended to me to 'assist... students in discerning between acts of free speech and acts of intimidation.' Perhaps it is your own that you project onto myself? I don't know how it is that responsibilities can be abdicated which have not been granted to me, nor how I can claim rights to speak which I do not at the time legally possess.

31. jerchr314 - June 17, 2010 at 03:27 am

Michael Oren is the representative of a sadistic paranoid psychopatahic terrorist governement that is dangerous to world safety, a government that is more likely than any other to start up World War III. It is a perfectly sane idea to shut him up. Regardless of the legalities, allowing him to speak at an American campus endangers the world by giving legitimacy to Israel. This should be taken into account in any action taken toward these Muslim students.

32. your_rights - June 17, 2010 at 04:10 am


"AIN'T IT THE TRUTH"

#5: "The evil will do evil and the good will do good. For the good to do evil, that takes religion."

#18: "muslims in that student union of theirs who aren't citizens should be sent home"

#21: "Sharia Law is coming to a University near you....."

#23: "Perhaps these students would be more comfortable expressing their protests in a muslim dictatorship where disruptive protest is not met with a suspension of a student organization but with death or imprisonment."

??: Welcome to WWIII

If you are not a citizen, go wage your wars in your own countries
If you are a new citizen start acting like the USA is your country

33. alan_kors - June 18, 2010 at 08:43 pm

The crucial issue here is not agreement or disagreement with speakers or disrupters---or one's views of Islam or Israel---but the horror of having any legal speech or expression of ideas on a campus suppressed, including by a heckler's veto that prevents those who wish to listen from listening. Universities should be places where exchange of ideas occurs without disruption, to say the least, and where speech of which one disapproves is responded to by speech, not by suppression. The silencing of speakers on a campus by mobs is the antithesis of that freedom of expression which is the sine qua non of an authentic free insitution, whatever the ideological or religious provenance of the silencing.

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