100 UC Irvine faculty members ask DA to drop charges against Muslim students

Rick Moran
Last year, Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren was giving a speech on the University of California-Irvine campus when 11 members of the Muslim Student Union rose and began to heckle and otherwise disrupt his speech. The group was arrested and the MSA was slapped on the wrist by school administrators.

Now, 100 faculty members at the school think the students have been punished enough and have written a letter to the DA asking him to drop the charges:

The group, including five deans, said the Muslim Student Union was wrong to disrupt the speech last year by Ambassador Michael Oren but that the students and the group had already been disciplined by the university.Orange County prosecutors announced last week they were charging the students with two misdemeanor counts, including conspiracy to disrupt the speech. If convicted, each faces up to six months in jail.

The decision to charge the students, the faculty letter says, "sets a dangerous precedent for the use of the criminal law against nonviolent protests on campus."

It goes on to argue the charges are harmful and divisive to the school and risk "undoing the healing process" after widespread debate erupted following the protest and the decision to temporarily suspend the group.

"I think there was a great deal of dismay that the DA was reviving what we thought had been a closed chapter in the university's history," said UC Irvine history professor Jon Wiener.

The district attorney has argued that the students organized to squelch the speaker in clear violation of the law. The students are set to be arraigned March 11 in Santa Ana.

I'm not sure there was much "healing" going on following the ruckus. And the "disciplinary action" didn't amount to much:

UCI recommended that the MSU be suspended for the upcoming school year, prevented from organizing any events, be placed on disciplinary probation the following year, and complete 50 hours of community service as an organization...

This same lovely bunch sponsors the annual "Israeli Apartheid Rally" every year on campus, complete with nauseating anti-Semitic signs and posters.

But prosecuting them? I am uncomfortable when any group - right, left, Muslims, Israelis, Nazis, commies - is targeted by the law because of non-violent protest. Democracy isn't easy. All kinds of radical, crazy, even dangerous speech is legal, as it should be. And there shouldn't be a law that governs politeness. Preventing Oren from speaking was abominable manners as well as mindless stupidity.

But criminal?

The definition of free speech is allowing those you violently disagree with to have their say. It doesn't matter that if, in the process of exercising their rights, they behave boorishly. While we might look with disfavor on the severity of the discipline handed out by the school, they have handled the situation and judged the students guilty. It's not enough but the institution has had its way with the MSU and I fail to see why the law should have anything else to do with the incident.




Last year, Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren was giving a speech on the University of California-Irvine campus when 11 members of the Muslim Student Union rose and began to heckle and otherwise disrupt his speech. The group was arrested and the MSA was slapped on the wrist by school administrators.

Now, 100 faculty members at the school think the students have been punished enough and have written a letter to the DA asking him to drop the charges:

The group, including five deans, said the Muslim Student Union was wrong to disrupt the speech last year by Ambassador Michael Oren but that the students and the group had already been disciplined by the university.

Orange County prosecutors announced last week they were charging the students with two misdemeanor counts, including conspiracy to disrupt the speech. If convicted, each faces up to six months in jail.

The decision to charge the students, the faculty letter says, "sets a dangerous precedent for the use of the criminal law against nonviolent protests on campus."

It goes on to argue the charges are harmful and divisive to the school and risk "undoing the healing process" after widespread debate erupted following the protest and the decision to temporarily suspend the group.

"I think there was a great deal of dismay that the DA was reviving what we thought had been a closed chapter in the university's history," said UC Irvine history professor Jon Wiener.

The district attorney has argued that the students organized to squelch the speaker in clear violation of the law. The students are set to be arraigned March 11 in Santa Ana.

I'm not sure there was much "healing" going on following the ruckus. And the "disciplinary action" didn't amount to much:

UCI recommended that the MSU be suspended for the upcoming school year, prevented from organizing any events, be placed on disciplinary probation the following year, and complete 50 hours of community service as an organization...

This same lovely bunch sponsors the annual "Israeli Apartheid Rally" every year on campus, complete with nauseating anti-Semitic signs and posters.

But prosecuting them? I am uncomfortable when any group - right, left, Muslims, Israelis, Nazis, commies - is targeted by the law because of non-violent protest. Democracy isn't easy. All kinds of radical, crazy, even dangerous speech is legal, as it should be. And there shouldn't be a law that governs politeness. Preventing Oren from speaking was abominable manners as well as mindless stupidity.

But criminal?

The definition of free speech is allowing those you violently disagree with to have their say. It doesn't matter that if, in the process of exercising their rights, they behave boorishly. While we might look with disfavor on the severity of the discipline handed out by the school, they have handled the situation and judged the students guilty. It's not enough but the institution has had its way with the MSU and I fail to see why the law should have anything else to do with the incident.