The chancellor of UC Berkeley, the leaders of 10 California State Universities, and over 300 heads of American colleges and universities signed a statement declaring zero-tolerance for anti-Semitic acts on their campuses.
The statement, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, ran as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Monday. Alarmed by threats and vandalism committed against Jewish or pro-Israel students, the signatories announced that any and all acts of discrimination will be investigated.
Chancellor Albert Carnesale, who did not sign the statement, said that it incorrectly addressed the current situation.
It implied that there are problems on every campus, which is wrong, he said, adding that it should have sought protection for all students instead of focusing on Jewish and Zionist groups.
The statement was made after a summer when tensions in the rhetorical battle for the hearts and minds of students and academics over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict reached increasingly high levels:
• In June 196 UC faculty members, following the lead of academics at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other major universities, circulated a petition calling for the university's divestment from Israel as a response to alleged human-rights abuses and violations of international law. Counter-petitions denounced divestment and 539 UC professors signed on.
• That same month, Robert Corrigan, President of San Francisco State University, suspended the funding of the General Union of Palestinian Students for a year and issued a warning letter to San Francisco Hillel after unruly behavior during competing rallies in May between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel students. It was widely reported that some students shouted "Hitler didn't finish the job." Members of GUPS said they were called "camel jockeys" and other slurs.
• In July Gov. Gray Davis instructed heads of the UC and California State University to report anti-Semitic incidents and warn incoming students that all hate crimes will be punished.
• The UC Academic Senate decided to review course description policies after an English R1A course at UC Berkeley, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance" incited national controversy for advising "conservative thinkers to seek other sections."
• In September, Harvard President Lawrence Summers gave a speech warning of growing anti-Semitic trends across American campuses, specifically citing the divestment initiative as a sign that "profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities."
• Campus Watch, a Web site run by the Middle East Forum – a think-tank led by pro-Israel scholar Daniel Pipes – drew the ire of many professors for keeping dossiers on allegedly anti-Israel academics. The dossiers were dropped after nearly 100 professors demanded to be added to what University of Chicago history professor Rashid Khalidi termed a "McCarthyite" list.
Members of Bruins for Israel said university leaders should take a stand against anti-Semitism as many Jewish students feel threatened by increasingly visible hostility.
"It's scary to see swastikas up ... It's scary to see them on posters," said Matt Knee, member of BFI and former Daily Bruin columnist.
In 2001 the UC annual crime report listed six hate crimes at UCLA, only one of which was motivated by religion. System-wide, two of 13 reported hate crimes were targeted against religious groups. No religion was specified in the report.
Though crime figures for 2002 at UCLA were not immediately available, the campus is not hate-free.
"We do get vandalism, such a swastika in the bathroom," said UC Police Department press aide Nancy Greenstein.
With reports from The Associated Press.