The Hillel Foundation of Orange County announced last week that it plans to investigate anti-Semitism at UC Irvine with an all-Jewish task force of community members, lawyers, rabbis and one UCI professor.
This is the third such investigation in recent school history. In July, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a governmental fact-finding group issued a report on anti-Semitism at several campuses including UCI. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is also conducting their own investigation.
Because of the OCR’s investigation, the administration is unable to comment on Hillel’s investigation.
‘The federal investigation prevents the university administration from participating in Hillel’s task force,’ said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez. ‘However, any member of the university community including students, faculty or staff is free to cooperate. Of course, those individuals speak for themselves and not the university.’
Although Orange County Hillel has never conducted an investigation like this before, Executive Director Jeffrey Rips hopes its approach will be a model for communities and educational institutions to use in the future. Hillel plans to compile an advisory report based on facts and interviews, which it will submit to the university and the community by the end of the school year.
The tension between a small minority of outspoken Jewish and Muslim students at UCI has received statewide and national news coverage, most notably following the 2003 destruction of a Holocaust memorial and last year’s showing of Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad by UCI’s College Republicans.
Most recently, the Anteaters for Israel hosted controversial and staunchly pro-Israel speaker Daniel Pipes, prompting a disruptive and vocal protest from the Muslim Student Union.
This clash between the campus groups and the subsequent heated back and forth debate, seen in the New University and on the Web site Anteater Forum, may have caused enough clamor for Orange County Hillel to take notice and organize the task force.
‘For me, in the beginning, I kept getting calls, about the climate on campus for Jewish students,’ Rips said. ‘It’s clearly not one thing. I get all these calls and complaints and say what are you going to do about it? [We decided] to talk about the issues. But we realized that we needed to do some research