Straight from the JTA website:

Jewish students protested the planned participation of the University of California, Irvine chancellor at a Hillel conference.

In a letter sent last Thursday to Hillel President Wayne Firestone, 41 current and former students objected to the appearance of Michael Drake at The Summit, which is being held Monday to Wednesday in Washington.

Drake is slated to appear on the opening day at a session titled “Fostering a More Civil Society.”

His invitation has come under fire over allegations that he has been unresponsive to claims by Jewish students at Irvine that they have been subjected to a pattern of anti-Semitic threats and rhetoric.

“Jewish students at UCI have been subjected to hateful anti-Semitic programs and speakers on a regular basis, and yet Chancellor Drake and his administration have never once condemned any of it,” said the letter. “In fact, we understand that, according to Chancellor Drake, anti-Semitism is not even a problem on his campus. In light of his conduct, we believe that Chancellor Drake has not earned the right to be a speaker at a Hillel event focusing on how to create an environment that is civil, respectful and tolerant.”

Okay. Rabbi Yonah points us to a different message from yet another UC Irvine Jewish students group.

Irvine, CA Mar 26, 2008 In light of recent controversy over the limits of free speech rights at UC Irvine, we, the Jewish student leaders, stand by the UCI Administration in their efforts to protect first amendment rights, as well as to promote the free exchange of ideas.

Chancellor Drake’s appearance at the national Hillel Summit in Washington DC this week exemplified the University’s true commitment to “Imagining a More Civil Society”, the theme of the summit. We are honored, as the greater Jewish community should also be, by Drake’s unrelenting commitment, as he repeatedly condemns hate speech in all forms, and emphasizes that it has no place on any University campus.

Over the past few months, off-campus organizations have issued allegations that the UCI Administration has failed to properly address issues of anti- Semitism, arguing that Jewish students are consistently victims of physical threats. As representatives of the larger active Jewish community on campus, we challenge this claim and extend an open invitation to any outside organization(s) that wish to experience Jewish student life at UCI first-hand. We are confident that their visit to our University, under the current administration, will reveal today’s reality: Jewish students are physically safe and secure on our campus.

With four active Jewish and pro-Israel organizations on campus, Jewish life is thriving more than ever. Over the past four years, the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, has grown by over 100% and is now 71 members strong. Hillel’s weekly Shabbat dinners, which in years past struggled to attract a measly twenty students, now reach peaks of over one hundred students.

The reality is that verbal anti-Semitism, spurred by controversial student groups, unfortunately continues to exist on campus. However, Jewish student life is able to expand and prosper due to the constructive approach taken by Hillel Foundation of Orange County and Jewish Federation, in conjunction with the support of UCI Administration.

UPDATE: Marla Jo Fisher has covered the story for the Orange County Register. Both sides are represented in the story, although the UCI students in favor of the positive letter and their views seem to be the focus of the article.

About the author