Violent responses to pro-Palestine encampments violate content neutrality

Violent responses to pro-Palestine encampments violate content neutrality
Image by Roxana Anayat for The UCSD Guardian

In response to pro-Palestine protests, UC San Diego and several other universities have violated free speech protections, enforcing unfair censorship and retaliation. The actions taken by these universities show a refusal to crack down on violent counter-protests like those at UCLA, while overtly seeking to retaliate against and punish pro-Palestinan groups who have been involved in peaceful protests. This is repulsive and dangerous for public universities, which are an arm of the government, and is unacceptable in any place that promotes learning.

Legally, universities cannot retaliate, censor, or punish students based on factors like political affiliation or fear of illegal activity. Doing so would result in a breach of content neutrality, and universities are obligated to adhere to this policy under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This Act prohibits the specific targeting of one group based on political or perceptive biases, religion, race, or ethnicity. However, with the recent national protests, content neutrality has been disregarded by universities as administrations violate the policy in their harsh treatment of pro-Palestinian protestors and their leniency towards counter-protesters.

An uneven application of policy against pro-Palestinain students is scattered in a paper trail through internal memos, leaked documents, and Congressional hearings. Universities have justified excessive censorship, retaliation, and police deployment with claims of the supersedence of security and student safety. However, these biased and immoral actions are primarily directed at pro-Palestinian organizations.

Recent administrative actions at UCSD can be used as a primary case study, beginning with the reaction to outside organizers at the encampment.

Public statements from UCSD and Chancellor Pradeep Khosla referred to members of these organizations as “unaffiliated,” and several of these groups were looked on with undue suspicion. Meanwhile, the larger national organization of Hillel and unaffiliated off-campus groups also present on campus at the time were not mentioned, and their campus chapters were not targeted with the same reaction as pro-Palestinian protesters. Further, UCSD legal observers and the administration allowed pro-Israeli community members to dox students and report them for suspension to their student jobs and Associated Students positions, in an environment of heightened concern about workplace retaliation.

Additionally, UCSD administrators chose to exclusively punish pro-Palestinian encampment members despite several incidents of Islamophobic harassment occurring, including rape threats, death threats, and doxxing. Two official complaints were forwarded to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination regarding discrimination at Geisel Library and verbal and physical altercations from counter-protesting off-campus visitors. Yet, there was no public announcement or punishment for these “unaffiliated” individuals and groups, highlighting the hypocrisy of UCSD’s previous response. The administration chose to remain silent on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents and did not issue a campus-wide message of deterrent as they did in response to pro-Palestinian organizers— a group of largely respectful and peaceful protesters.

However, even before the encampment, administrators targeted Students for Justice in Palestine at UCSD. According to sources within SJP, their organization has faced consequences and warnings throughout the year, including being sent a cease-and-desist on May 1. Formal warnings were also issued for guest speaker Linda Sarsour, who led a Dabke (traditional dance) circle outside the encampment. Meanwhile, other organizations were not scrutinized for their involvement in utilizing the Library Walk space. The prolific anti-Arab rhetoric and platforming of Jonathan Alkhoury and Mosab Hassan Yousef by the Tritons for Israel organization went unacknowledged despite causing fear and heightened tension among Palestinian students. UCSD did not even go as far as to issue a warning to the students afflicted. The university has demarcated clear favoritism in several other accounts detailing the counter-protest marches, which have been disputed by reporters from The UCSD Guardian.

UCSD is not alone in enforcing reactionary, short-sighted policy. Columbia University has committed similar violations of content neutrality. Unlike UCSD and other universities demonstrating such unjust forms of retaliation, however, Columbia now faces consequences under third-party investigation and intervention.

At Columbia, Palestine Legal filed a complaint against the university through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. This is the third investigation into the university based on claims of “anti-Muslim” disparate treatment, retaliation, and inconsistent investigation into harassment alongside “six other peer institutions.”

Investigations conducted on these universities’ behalf are certainly a step in the right direction. However, all universities that violate content neutrality must be held accountable so as to ensure students are no longer subjected to biased retaliation.

 

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Reanna Roblin, Contributing Writer
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *