If you keep heckling the Israeli ambassador to the US during a talk at UC Irvine, the school has a right to throw you out of the room. And if you violate school standards, they have a right to take you to task on such violations as long as they consistently apply the standards to all students. Any student protester knows this and makes the choice to risk those outcomes when they choose disruption over, say, really uncomfortable questions.
But do they have the right to arrest you?
Amazingly, 11 Muslim students at UC Irvine weren’t handed the usual disciplinary action for violating student codes (they each got up, made a statement and then would walk to the door to be escorted out by police). NO, they were actually arrested.
I remember doing almost the exact same thing when I was that age- a bunch of liberal students repeatedly interrupted former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft at a campus talk-only we weren’t so mad. People we knew hadn’t been killed or imprisoned. We recited Jabberwocky and got hauled out. Our punishment? Nothing.
Just change the names: “11 members of the Young Israel Alliance were arrested for heckling the Palestinian ambassador at UC Berkeley today.” No matter who it is, there’s something not right here and the answer to the over-reaction is likely outside pressure (which students who are genuinely concerned about Jewish-Muslim relations report tends to polarize and hinder, not help.)
Apparently, conservative students who committed a similar disruption last year got very different treatment. No arrest for them.
LA Jewish Journal reports in: UC Riverside Faculty Voice Support for Protesters Against Oren
Faculty at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), joined voices at UC campuses statewide in support of 11 students arrested for heckling Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren during his Feb. 8 speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Thirty-one professors and graduate students from several UCR departments signed a “Statement on Free Speech, Palestine and the ‘UC Irvine 11,’ ” drafted by Dylan Rodriguez, chair of the university’s Ethnic Studies department. The March 11 pronouncement calls on the UC administration and the Orange County district attorney’s office to drop disciplinary and punitive action against eight UCI and three UCR students, which it calls “discriminatory, cynical, and politically and intellectually repressive.”
The UCI students have been charged with violations of the student codes of conduct. Officials at UCR could not confirm whether action would be taken against their students.
“We believe that this is a cynical and opportunistic attempt at political repression that reflects the racial criminalization of young Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim men and women as actual or potential ‘terrorists.’ By way of contrast, Ethnic Studies faculty have taught courses in Ethnic Studies in which classroom proceedings were disrupted by students with opposing views, and the university administration did not pursue any disciplinary or punitive measures against them. In fact, we have sometimes been told that such disruptions are an expression of academic free speech,” the statement said.
Rodriguez said the statement was intended to take issue with the tendency, since at least 2001, to affiliate Muslim men with terrorism within popular discourse, as well as to challenge what he sees as selective enforcement of codes of conduct by university administrators.
“People protesting is something to be expected,” he said, noting that UCR administrators did not take disciplinary action against what he called “conservative” student protesters following a similar incident last fall. “When people get selectively subjugated to enforcement of codes of conduct, it has a chilling affect on political discussion and freedom.”
It remains to be seen whether UC Irvine administrators can prove that this is a routine response to such disruptions, or exceptional treatment consistent with our undeniable and absolutely shameful criminalization of Muslims and Arab Americans.
Meanwhile, to his credit, Michael Oren has offered to come back and have a dialogue with students. I hope the arrested students, some of whom lost close relatives during the attack on Gaza, will take him up on his offer. I really do. It would take an incredible amount of courage and character to sit down face to face with a man who defends a massive military attack that killed your family members and destroyed schools and hospitals. If I were in their place, I’m not sure I would have that kind of inner strength. But what a meeting it could be.