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June 14, 2010 [feather]
UC-Irvine gets it right

Too often, there are problems with follow through when universities respond to scandalously bad behavior on campus. When the media pressure gets intense, they say they'll look into it, buy themselves some time ... and then quietly allow matters to drop when media attention and general public furor die down.

I confess, I was starting to suspect that something of the sort might be happening at UC-Irvine, where, in February, members of the Muslim Student Union plotted to shut down Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's talk, ignored administrators who warned them not to--and then repeatedly and rudely interfered with his ability to deliver his invited, scheduled remarks. This was classic heckler's veto behavior, and as I have noted many times on this blog, such behavior is illegitimate, should not be confused with free speech, and should not be tolerated on campus. The episode at UCI made headlines, and many called for UCI to hold the students accountable.

An investigation was launched. Months passed. Silence.

One could, perhaps, be forgiven for beginning to suspect that this was proving to be an instance of administrative cynicism--another instance of do-nothingism in the hope that the public would never notice.

Then today comes the announcement that UCI has followed through:

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. Representatives of the Muslim Student Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nice work.

More from Professor Mundo.

posted on June 14, 2010 1:23 PM

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It's probably just an odd coincidence, but I can't help noticing that the Muslim Student Union will be shut down until 9/11.

Posted by: Dave Stone at June 14, 2010 2:38 PM

I don't quite understand how this is a "heckler's veto" if the disruptions lasted only a short time and the speech continued to completion. As I note on my blog, the students planned to sit down and remain quiet if they were able to finish their statements. As far as repression of free speech goes, this doesn't come anywhere near the death threats used to be Bill Ayers and Ward Churchill from speaking at numerous colleges.

Posted by: John K. Wilson at June 15, 2010 1:24 PM

Please invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan or some Israeli government official to speak at your local college campus and let us know how that turns out. Also, do you know if Ayers or Churchill require 24/7/365 armed protection from oppressed hecklers?

Posted by: TG at June 16, 2010 12:14 AM

Based upon his comment and blog posting, it appears Mr. Wilson did not take his time to read the whole letter by UCI. It makes quite clear that besides being a free speech issue, the MSU refused to cooperate with the investigation, and it gave false and misleading information during said process, which is far more grevious than the heckling that they gave during the Oren presentation.

I am glad that he mentioned Ward Churchill for there are a great many similarities, and the issue regarding him continues to be misrepresented to this day by academic status quo defenders. Churchill was found to have engaged in plagarism and fabrication by a panel of his peers.

These are less to do with free-speech issues, and more with blatant criminal actions. Mr. Kline would do better to bear this in mind.

Posted by: E.T. at June 17, 2010 10:43 AM