Monday, October 16, 2006

NewU: Susan Tuchman: Letter to the Editor

Susan Tuchman, Director of the Center for Law and Justice at the Zionist Organization of America, and the person who filed the complaint with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, responds to the NewU's article from last week regarding the US Commission on Civil Rights's findings and recommendations. The author of that NewU article, Ben Ritter, sorta...ahem...forgot to interview her. (?!?!?!)

Link to article

Letter to the Editor
Anti-Semitism Prevalent at UCI
By Susan B. Tuchman

Your article correctly noted that the problem of campus anti-Semitism is of national concern (“UCI Responds to Anti-Semitism Claims,” Oct. 9, 2006). The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – an independent and bipartisan federal agency that focuses on civil rights and discrimination issues, and reports to the president and Congress – recently issued landmark findings and recommendations to address the problem. The Commission will also be undertaking a public education initiative to fight anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on college campuses.

Hopefully, UC Irvine will embrace this government initiative since, as your article suggested, the problem of anti-Semitism on this campus is serious enough that UCI is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The investigation was triggered by the Zionist Organization of America’s complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint was filed with the full support of Jewish students who have been feeling harassed and intimidated by the hateful speakers and programs on campus that regularly target Jews, Zionism and the State of Israel.

UCI may try to refute individual incidents (all of which the students stand by), but the impact of the campus environment has been serious: Students have been afraid to identify themselves as Jewish, or to participate in Jewish or pro-Israel activities. Some have avoided certain areas of the campus or stayed away from the campus altogether whenever they could. Some have feared for their physical safety. Two students actually left UCI because they could no longer tolerate the hostility they faced as Jews on campus.

Unfortunately, as your article reflects, UCI continues to engage in denial about the problem of anti-Semitism on the campus—even though many Jewish students and others have repeatedly complained to several senior administrators about the hate and hostility, and the harmful impact it has been having. The few programs and speakers that UCI has initiated, purportedly to promote tolerance, are not enough to overcome hate and bigotry. And not coincidentally, they were initiated only after the ZOA’s complaint triggered the government investigation.

The administration would like you to believe that the complaint is about suppressing or restricting free speech. But that is not and has never been the case. The ZOA, and the students on whose behalf the complaint was filed, recognize and fully support the protection afforded to speech under the First Amendment.

Suppressing speech is not the objective. The objective is to ensure that Jewish students can obtain their education in an environment that is not harassing, intimidating or causing them to fear for their safety, which is their right under the law. One important step that the university could take is to exercise its own First Amendment rights by speaking out and condemning, loud and clear, the hate and bigotry that are regularly expressed on campus against Jews, Zionism and Israel. UCI must live up to its legal obligation to ensure a campus environment that is free from racial and ethnic harassment and discrimination, and that is hopefully what the Office for Civil Rights’ investigation will accomplish.

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America

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