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UC president responds to 'recent incidents of intolerance' on campus

In an open letter to the University of California community, the 10-campus system's president Mark G. Yudof responded to "recent incidents of intolerance" including the vandalizing of an Israeli flag at the UC Riverside Hillel, a Jewish student organization, and the heckling of an event involving Israeli soldiers at UC Davis.

Here are a few snippets from that letter:

"...It was wrong for hecklers to disrupt speakers on the UC Davis campus at an event entitled "Israeli Soldiers Speak Out." It was reprehensible that one of these hecklers accused the speakers of being associated with rapists and murders. Under the direction of Chancellor [Linda] Katehi, campus officials dealt appropriately with this individual, moving him out of the room and barring re-entry. But I want to make this clear: I condemn the actions of those who would disrupt this event. Attempting to shout down speakers is not protected speech. It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech.

It was wrong for a vandal or vandals on the UC Riverside campus to deface the Israeli flag displayed by the Jewish student organization Hillel, scrawling the word “terrorists” across it. I applaud Chancellor [Timothy] White for his rapid and vigorous condemnation of this cowardly act. And I join him whole heartedly in that condemnation. The chancellor was right to assign campus police to investigate.

Two years ago, at UC San Diego, it was African Americans who were vilified by words and images that mocked their heritage and who felt threatened by the hanging of a noose. Around the same time, derogatory and profane words were spray-painted across the entrance to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center at UC Davis. Likewise, swastikas scrawled on campus walls or doors have made Jewish students feel unsafe..."

Yudof said the 10-campus system has worked with its campuses and various groups to revise policies on student conduct so as to strengthen prohibitions on threatening conduct and acts motivated by bias, including religious bias. The system is also working with the Museum of Tolerance and the Anti-Defamation League to "improve the campus climate" for students, Yudof wrote.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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