Following Antisemitic Incidents on Campuses, California Legislative Jewish Caucus Calls for Immediate Action by UC & CSU Leadership

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(Simon Dawson / Reuters)

Sacramento, CA – the California Legislative Jewish Caucus released a letter — signed by all 18 members of the Caucus — calling on University of California President Michael V. Drake and California State University Chancellor Mildred García to act to counter the wave of antisemitic incidents sweeping their campuses since Hamas’s terrorist attack on October 7. The California Jewish Legislative Caucus is co-chaired by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino).

Dear President Drake and Chancellor García:

We write as members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus to express our outrage and concern regarding the explosion of antisemitism at University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses in recent weeks. While we appreciate your willingness to meet with us two weeks ago to discuss our concerns, recent events have made it clear that the environment on our campuses has only grown increasingly hostile toward Jews. Indeed, we have heard shocking reports from Jewish students, faculty, and staff who have been traumatized by a barrage of physical abuse, threats, intimidation, hate speech, online harassment, and exclusion from academic opportunities. Sadly, there is a widespread feeling among Jewish students – as well as within the broader Jewish community – that many campus administrators do not understand the severity of the crisis and have been unwilling to take appropriate action to meet this moment. This is unacceptable and must change immediately.

To be clear, we support robust protections for freedom of speech and academic freedom and believe that our campuses must be centers for robust debate, academic inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas. We likewise believe that criticism of the Israeli government or U.S. foreign policy – like criticism of our own state government here in California – is fair game. But what our community has endured in recent weeks – which has included physical assaults, vandalism, and calls for violence and genocide against Jews – is beyond the pale. As you know, these events are part of a nationwide wave of campus antisemitism that has included violence, lockdowns, and unprecedented security protocols at Jewish student centers, punctuated by the recent arrest of a Cornell University student who called for raping and killing Jewish students in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

In recent days, we have heard from Jews across California who have been targeted by hate on our campuses. Among numerous other examples, we have heard from Jewish students at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and San Jose State who report being physically attacked for expressing support for Israel; Jewish students at UC San Diego who required a police escort in order to safely leave a student meeting; obscene anti-Israel graffiti on a Jewish ritual space at Cal Poly Humbolt; anti-Israel rallies at UCLA that interrupted classes with hate-filled rhetoric; a social media post by a UC Davis faculty member with knife, axe, and blood emojis calling for violence against Zionists in their homes and their “kids in school”; and an increased need for armed security at Jewish student centers on multiple campuses. Shockingly, anti-Israel student groups immediately celebrated the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7th, while the UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council glorified the largest mass murder, rape, and kidnapping of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust as worthy of support as part of the “Palestinian freedom struggle.” The failure by many administrators to speak with moral clarity and forcefully condemn the Hamas massacre has predictably served to normalize hate speech – calls for the elimination of Israel (and by extension violence and genocide against Jews) have become increasingly less subtle and more overt.

We are also deeply troubled by reports of UC and CSU faculty egregiously abusing their authority over students to amplify antisemitic and anti-Israel propaganda in what appear to be clear violations of campus rules, Regents’ policy, and California law. Examples have included professors cancelling classes for anti-Israel rallies, requiring students to view extreme anti-Israel propaganda, and expressing profound hostility towards Jews and Israelis – all in classes unrelated to foreign affairs or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sadly, to our knowledge, there has been no meaningful response to such abuses, which has only served to further embolden those who are creating a climate of hate on our campuses.

Finally, Jewish students and faculty have shared with us disturbing examples of Jewish students being denied opportunities afforded to other student groups. Examples include administrators providing space on campus to various identity and affinity groups but not to Jewish student organizations and at least one Israeli student at UC Berkeley being told she could not participate in a class-related conference because of her nationality.

The response by many campus administrators to the targeting of Jewish students has been woefully inadequate. In a meeting last week, we were advised that Jewish students are appalled by what they perceive as callous disregard for their physical safety and emotional well-being and traumatized by a constant bombardment of hate that has directly interfered with their ability to learn. Beyond the lack of concrete action, Jewish students have been deeply impacted by the lack of empathy exhibited by many campus leaders – they do not feel seen or heard, nor do they feel safe and protected, in this extremely challenging moment.

What is deeply distressing to many in the Jewish community – including members of our Jewish Caucus – is the pervasive feeling that the response by campus officials to the current situation would be markedly different if it involved another historically marginalized group. We cannot imagine – nor would we tolerate – silence or equivocation if any other group on campus were being similarly targeted. We have seen the UC and CSU stake out bold positions on politically charged issues like immigration and LGBTQ+ rights; it should not be this difficult to condemn antisemitism. As UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky recently observed, “[t]here has been enough silence and enough tolerance of antisemitism on college campuses” and that it is past time for campus administrators to “take a stand even if it will offend some and subject them to criticism.”

In light of these abuses, the UC and CSU systems must take immediate action to protect Jewish students. Administrators must be crystal clear in word and in deed that antisemitism – like all other forms of hatred and bigotry – will not be tolerated on our campuses. We also believe that UC and CSU must develop comprehensive, systemwide plans to address antisemitism and to ensure that Jews – like people of all other faiths and backgrounds – feel safe and welcome. We look forward to working closely with you on immediate and longer-term plans to address this crisis and will exercise our authority to craft higher education policy and our state budget to ensure the success of these efforts.

Respectfully,

SCOTT WIENER

Co-Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus

State Senator, 11th District

JESSE GABRIEL

Co-Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus

Member of the State Assembly, 46th District

State Senator, 11th District

JOSH BECKER

Vice Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus

State Senator, 13th District

REBECCA BAUER-KAHAN

Member of the State Assembly, 16th District

DAWN ADDIS

Member of the State Assembly, 30th District

MARC BERMAN

Member of the State Assembly, 23rd District

LAURA FRIEDMAN

Member of the State Assembly, 44th District

MATT HANEY

Member of the State Assembly, 17th District

JOSH LOWENTHAL

Member of the State Assembly, 69th District

GAIL PELLERIN

Member of the State Assembly, 28th District

BLANCA RUBIO

Member of the State Assembly, 48th District

CHRIS WARD

Member of the State Assembly, 78th District

RICK CHAVEZ ZBUR

Member of the State Assembly, 51st District

BEN ALLEN

State Senator, 24th District

STEVE GLAZER

State Senator, 7th District

JOSH NEWMAN

State Senator, 29th District

SUSAN RUBIO

State Senator, 22nd District

HENRY STERN

State Senator, 27th District

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