As a proud graduate of the California State University system, I am ashamed by the San Francisco State University students who sullied CSU’s reputation by abusing the rights of free assembly and free speech of those gathered at SFSU April 6 for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s talk about technology.
No one is arguing against a group’s right to protest, or to even be noisy. That is somewhat of a tradition on California campuses, where disruptive protests are not uncommon.
The disturbing fact is that the CSU and University of California systems have an increasing problem with anti-Semitism on their campuses. It is time for them to more fully address it and to ensure the rights of assembly and free speech. Anything less will be complicity in the troubling anti-Semitic incidents that continue to take place.
I understand that CSU and UC cannot make anti-Semitism go away. After all, when I was The Jewish Student Union’s communications director at Humboldt State University in the early 1980s, we had to deal with anti-Semitic flyers that some wanna-be Nazis posted around campus.
What I don’t understand is how SFSU could allow a group to take their protest inside a venue and shut it down while police watched. It is a stain upon the reputation of SFSU and it should not be tolerated. It is shameful.
I was heartened by San Francisco State University President Les Wong because he issued a response to the confrontation.
“I am concerned for the state of civil discourse on our campus,” Mr. Wong wrote. “… Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem was invited to speak yesterday on campus by SF Hillel, a student organization. The mayor’s talk … was disrupted by a small but loud group of protesters. Members of our community who attended the event were deprived of an opportunity to hear from the mayor.
“As an inclusive academic institution, we strive to make San Francisco State University a welcoming environment for all. Students are encouraged to engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue about difficult or controversial issues and, at the same time, to respect the rights of others to do the same.”
Mr. Wong noted students’ right to dissent while also noting students’ right to attend functions. He promised a “full investigation” to determine if any SFSU policies were violated. How about starting with free speech. The protesters exercised theirs, but the mayor had great difficulty exercising his.
“I am committed to examining the university’s planning and response mechanisms to better ensure that student events of this nature can occur unimpeded in the future,” Mr. Wong added.
“We must come together as a campus to foster a supportive and collegial environment in which disagreements can occur thoughtfully and respectfully. We must strive to live our values — and to be a safe place where all the members of our community are free to listen and to learn.”
I was also disheartened by The City’s newspaper of record, The San Francisco Chronicle. As a Chronicle subscriber I thought that I may have missed the story, so I did a search for “Mayor Nir Barkat” in The Chronicle after the confrontation. There was nothing that I could find in The Chronicle about the incident. That is also shameful.