By Ashley Duong
Following an incident in May in which protesters from campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) disrupted an event sponsored by another campus organization, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), UC Irvine’s Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct opened an investigation on the incident and released, on Sept. 1, a statement detailing their decision to sanction SJP “with disciplinary probation for two academic years, ending June 16, 2019.”
According to the statement released by UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, under the sanctions, SJP “must abide by UCI’s standards of conduct, meet with the Dean of Students six times per year to discuss free speech issues, and consult with a representative of the dean’s office before hosting or co-hosting any campus event. Any further violations of university policy may result in suspension or a revocation of the organization’s status.”
The incident reviewed by the Student Conduct Board involved a heated exchange between SJP and SSI students. Protesting the presence of Israeli soldiers being invited to speak on campus, SJP students were recorded chanting over speakers for four minutes toward the end of a question-and-answer segment, which was found to have violated the free speech rights of the students hosting the event, a stipulation detailed in the UCI Student Code of Conduct under the university’s Speech and Advocacy Policy.
Following their decision on the incident, UCI notified SJP leaders on Aug. 22, 2017, who then filed an appeal on Aug. 31, 2017.
The office stipulates that “the appeal process is expected to take several weeks,” and the decision, made by the Dean of Students “or his designee will consider the appeal and make a final decision, which can be to affirm, modify or reverse the sanction. The outcome of the appeal is final.”
This is the second sanction UCI has imposed on SJP in the past two years. Another incident in mid-2016, in which SJP students protested an on-campus movie screening, resulted in a probationary warning from the school lasting until March 29, 2017.
The new sanctions have garnered criticism not only from students but also from citizens of the community.
In a press statement from Palestine Legal Staff Attorney Liz Jackson in the OC Weekly, she wrote, “it’s a politically motivated choice to curtail the speech activities of students who stand up for Palestinian rights… It’s clearly UCI that needs the lesson in free speech, not the students.”