California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter to Chancellor Gillman about harassment of students in support of Palestinian rights at UCI



June 12, 2017

Chancellor Howard Gillman

Office of the Chancellor

510 Aldrich Hall

Irvine, CA 92697-1900


Dear Chancellor Gillman,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, ** a group of over 200 scholars in California institutions of higher education, write to object to a demonstrated bias on your part against students engaging in support for Palestinian rights and the climate of fear and mistrust it has spawned at UC Irvine. This ongoing problem has most recently been evidenced by your complete lack of any mention, never mind concern expressed, over the aggressive presence and even intimidation of UCI students engaging in their constitutionally protected speech against the Israeli Occupation by a group of self-described “active military reservists” of the Israeli Army (otherwise known as Israeli Defense Forces or IDF), who came onto your campus on May 8-11, 2017.

As documented by publicly available video shot by protesters as well as interviews with students, these Israeli “Reservists on Duty,” none of whom is a member of the UCI community, not only came onto the UCI campus to protest the UCI students’ yearly “Apartheid Week” event; but they verbally harassed, disrupted, intimidated, physically threatened and silenced the students engaging in their protected activities.

What’s more, the soldiers clearly represent the military of a foreign government, and are part of a sophisticated and government-directed military effort by the state of Israel to silence criticism of the Israeli occupation by sending these soldiers onto U.S. campuses.

These military representatives of Israel harassed these students not just once but for four days, for hours each day. According to eye witness reports, these Israeli military representatives filmed students, called the Palestinian students terrorists, and repeatedly made racist and misogynist comments to all the students engaged in actions addressing Palestinian rights.

During this time, your campus security personnel and administrative officials stood by and did nothing to protect the rights of your students.  You are now threatening to discipline the victims of this harassment for challenging their harassers about their actions at a public event.

We cannot avoid contrasting your lack of any support for the students with your sending out a letter to the entire UCI community and the public, on May 19 of last year, after a peaceful and entirely lawful protest by Jewish, Arab/Muslim and African American student groups against a pro-IDF film, in which you accused the protesters of having “crossed the line” from civility and repeated unfounded—and quickly disproved—accusations of harassing attendees of the film. We note further that in this case you not only spread false accusations without engaging in any due diligence, but that you never issued a retraction, never mind apology, when it became clear that the accusations were false, and instead actually proceeded with disciplinary proceedings against the Palestinian (but not the Jewish or African American) student group in response. The comparison between your response to that protest and complete lack of public response to this one is glaring and strongly suggests a bias not just against students who support Palestinian rights but against Arab/Muslim students in particular.

We imagine that if another foreign power, say for example, China, sent soldiers or military representatives onto your campus to aggressively and threateningly silence protests about Taiwan independence, Tibetan rights, or democracy, or Russia sent military representatives to silence protests about their occupation of Crimea, you would respond publicly to assure the students of the support of the Administration.  Yet you fail to respond to actions that if not legally actionable, are certainly unethical and immoral and threaten the well-being of students.

You are willing to go against longstanding rulings on academic freedom and the U.S. Constitution’s defense of free speech rights and to put your students in the way of physical and emotional harm. This is potentially legally actionable behavior.

We call on you to defend all of your students’ rights to free speech and to a safe campus.  We ask that you take immediate action to address this ongoing harassment, to drop any charges against the victims, and to put in place campus procedures that do not allow military representatives of foreign powers come onto campus in order to threaten UCI students.

We look forward to your response.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contact Persons:

Professor Lisa Rofel

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Professor Dennis Kortheuer


Cal State University Long Beach

Sondra Hale, Research Professor

Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies, UCLA

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.

Cc: President Janet Napolitano, University of California Office of the President

Chancellor Dirks, UC Berkeley

Chancellor Kim Wilcox, UC Riverside

Chancellor Henry Yang, UC Santa Barbara​

Chancellor Gene Block, UCLA

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego

Chancellor George R. Blumenthal, UCSC

Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter, UC Davis

Chancellor Dorothy Leland, UC Merced

Chancellor Sam Hawgood, UC San Francisco


June 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment