ACTIVISTS ARE outraged after administrators at the University California (UC) Irvine announced plans to suspend the Muslim Student Union (MSU) for a whole year starting in September. What did they do wrong? Students protested Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.
The Law School and Political Science Department cosponsored an event February 8 in which Oren spoke on the recent findings of the UN Human Rights Commission's fact-finding mission to Gaza. Oren maintains that the Israeli Defense Forces' 2008/2009 invasion of Gaza was justified and the IDF acted appropriately in all its operations.
Oren has publicly attacked the report conducted by South African judge Richard Goldstone, claiming that it went even further than "Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers" in denying Israel the right to self-defense, and that it "portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents--as Nazis."
During Oren's presentation, 11 students interrupted him several times, and at one point, walked out of the presentation to stage a protest outside. While the interruptions angered the event's organizers and prompted Oren to take a 20-minute recess at one point, they didn't prevent him from finishing his speech.
Now, even though the MSU maintains that the eight Irvine students who interrupted the meeting were acting as individuals, the university's disciplinary committee is targeting the MSU, the university's central community for Muslim students.
The MSU issued a statement the day of Oren's appearance condemning the university for "inadvertently supporting the ambassador of a state that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined." But it organized no formal protest.
The 11 students who interrupted Oren--three of whom were UC Riverside students and the others were from Irvine--were arrested and held by Orange County police, and later released with the possibility of facing criminal charges at a later date. At no point during their protest or their incarceration did the students claim to be acting on behalf of the MSU.
Nonetheless, the university has insisted on using the fact that the Irvine students were MSU members to assign blame for the protests to the student group. In a May 27 letter to leaders of the group, Senior Executive Director of Student Housing Lisa Cornish explained that the university obtained 31 pages of e-mails from the student group's Google account and "detailed minutes from MSU's February 3, 2010 General Assembly meeting."
She claimed that these documents, coupled with accounts given by "anonymous sources" and university officials, and the fact that the students retained the same attorney to be present at Oren's presentation and represent them in the student conduct review process, indisputably demonstrated that the MSU "planned every detail of the disruptions."
Based on these findings, Cornish concluded that the students were intentionally misrepresenting themselves when they denied that they were acting as representatives of the MSU or that they were participating in a MSU event, and added, "Other forms of dishonesty, including but not limited to fabricating information, furnishing false information or reporting a false emergency to the university" to the list of violations.
Cornish also charged the group with violations directly related to the actions of the eight Irvine students at the presentation: "[o]bstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other university activities;" "[d]isorderly or lewd conduct"; and "[p]articipation in a disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly."
Based on these findings, Cornish informed the MSU that she planned to revoke the organization's recognition; prohibit any MSU officer listed on the Dean of Students' registration document from acting as an "authorized signer" for any other student organization for a full year; require the organization's membership to complete 50 hours of community service on a project selected by her; require the MSU's officers to schedule a joint meeting with the Director of Student Conduct and the Director of Campus Organizations; and place the organization on another full year of disciplinary probation if it is permitted to re-register for recognition in the fall 2011.
Source: Socialist Worker (more there)