(November 16, 2021, JNS Wire)
(Los Angeles, CA) — StandWithUs called for a formal investigation by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) leadership into a case where the Muslim Students Association (MSA) likely denied a Jewish student their constitutional rights during a Zoom public meeting, as outlined in a legal letter to the administration sent by StandWithUs and the Jewish student. For the student’s safety, their identity is being kept anonymous. An independent source provided StandWithUs with a captured video of the MSA’s egregious effort to marginalize and stigmatize this Jewish student through discriminatory action.
On May 21, 2021, at an MSA public Zoom, “General Body Meeting: Call to Action for Palestine,” which included a publicly posted Zoom link to join, the MSA leadership and attendees knowingly blocked a Jewish student from attending the meeting by keeping them in the Zoom waiting room while they discussed whether to admit this person for the remainder of the meeting. The discussion centered on MSA attendees not wanting to engage with the student because of their Zionist identity. The discussion culminated in a vote, and, after expressed reluctance, the Jewish student was admitted.
As detailed in StandWithUs’ letter, the MSA’s reprehensible and discriminatory actions likely violated numerous university policies, as well as the student’s constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, by excluding them from a public forum due to an aspect of their protected identity.
After receiving a boilerplate bureaucratic response from the administration to our initial legal letter, available here, StandWithUs sent a second letter on November 8, 2021, available here, again requesting an administrative investigation and that this matter be seriously addressed.
“We are appalled that UCSC is aware of this incident and apparently has taken no action to address it. Knowingly denying a Jewish-Zionist student’s right to free speech and participation in a public student group meeting based on their identity is an abhorrent act of bigotry,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO and Co-Founder of StandWithUs. “StandWithUs simply asks UCSC to provide equal protection and equally uphold the constitutional rights of its Jewish students.”
There is excellent precedent for the UCSC administration to take action against the MSA here. In a similar incident in 2010 at UC Irvine, the Muslim Student Union prevented Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren from speaking, violating both Ambassador Oren’s and the audience’s First Amendment rights. UC Irvine took swift disciplinary action against the students and suspended the Muslim Student Union. As UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky noted at the time, “There is simply no First Amendment right…to prevent a speaker from being heard, no matter who the speaker is and how strongly one disagrees with his or her message.”
Since initially notifying the university administration of this matter on October 20, 2021, StandWithUs has learned that after a BDS resolution on UCSC’s campus and around the same time as this MSA incident, in spring 2021, a UCSC Jewish fraternity house was vandalized. In light of this, StandWithUs’ letter asks UCSC leadership to investigate the MSA incident and pursue all necessary actions to protect the rights of Jewish students. Furthermore, StandWithUs asks that the university issue a public statement condemning the MSA’s actions and recognizing that for most Jews, Zionism is an integral component of Jewish identity.