UC-Irvine Suspends Muslim Student Group for Disrupting Speech

June 14, 2010

The University of California at Irvine has suspended the campus's Muslim Student Union for one year and placed the group on disciplinary probation after members of the group repeatedly interrupted a campus speech in February by Israel's ambassador to the United States, according to a letter released on Monday.

The hecklers shouted down the ambassador, Michael Oren, at times calling him a "killer" and scuttling parts of the speech. Video of the event drew international attention and sparked a debate about the tactics of the protesters, who said they were angry about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

A university review found that the group had planned the disruption in advance, and that it had violated a number of campus policies, including disruption of university activities and disorderly conduct. The group will be banned from the campus until at least September 2011, and its members will be required to complete 50 hours of community service, according to the letter, supplied by the university in response to a public-records request.

A campus spokeswoman, Cathy Lawhon, said the university would not yet comment on the findings because the matter is confidential and the Muslim Student Union still has the option to appeal the findings to the dean of students.

A lawyer for the student group, Reem Salahi, said the letter would have a "massive chilling effect" and that she hoped the university's decision would be overturned on appeal. "What does it mean to suspend an organization that represents hundreds of Muslims on campus? … What you're recommending is depriving those students of the right to associate," she said.

The evidence presented against the group in the university's letter was flawed, Ms. Salahi said, a matter the group had raised in its appeal. "A lot of the evidence was anonymous—we don't know who was testifying. A lot of the evidence was redacted. We don't know what was said in full."