November 18, 2018

UC Berkeley, Santa Cruz anti-Semitism complaints dismissed

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed complaints against the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz that had accused the universities of allowing a hostile environment for Jewish students to exist on campus.

In a letter dated Aug. 19 and released Aug. 27 by UC Berkeley, the education department’s Office for Civil Rights indicates that it is closing its yearlong investigation after concluding that events that took place on the Berkeley campus — such as mock military checkpoint demonstrations held during Israeli Apartheid Week by Students for Justice in Palestine — constitute “expression on matters of public concern directed to the University community.”

“In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience,” the letter states. “In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment.”

The complaint was levied by two graduates who had an earlier complaint dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg. He ruled that there was no evidence that university officials violated the Jewish students’ rights.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement that he was pleased with the outcome.

“The claim that there is a hostile environment for Jewish students at Berkeley is, on its face, entirely unfounded.”

He said the university is proud of its Jewish community and of the many cultural opportunities it affords.

“We will continue our ongoing efforts to protect free speech rights while promoting respectful dialogue and maintaining a campus environment that is safe for all out students,” Dirks said.

A similar complaint against UC Santa Cruz was dismissed in an Aug. 19 letter. The complaint alleged that a 2009 “A Pulse on Palestine” event that included a film and a panel discussion between external guest speakers that was moderated by a university professor, among other things, created a hostile environment.

“This campus values the free and open expression of ideas, and we diligently safeguard our students’ civil rights,” UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal said in a statement. “We are, therefore, pleased that these allegations have been thoroughly investigated and dismissed.”