Amid heightened tensions at universities across the country arising from the Israel-Hamas war, the University of California system will allocate $7 million to combat “alarming acts of bigotry, intolerance and intimidation,” including antisemitism and Islamophobia, on its campuses, officials announced this week.
“As university leaders, we cannot solve the deep and long-lasting issues that resulted in the horrific violence we saw in Israel six weeks ago and the devastation we are seeing in Gaza,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, who announced the funding during a Board of Regents meeting Wednesday. “But we have an important role to play as an educational institution.”
The UC allocation will include:
$3 million to provide emergency mental health resources for students, faculty and staff who may be struggling with recent events or the climate on their campus.
$2 million for educational programs at each UC campus to better understand antisemitism and Islamophobia, how to recognize and combat extremism, and a viewpoint-neutral history of the Middle East.
$2 million to train UC leadership, staff and faculty with an emphasis on freedom of expression; academic freedom; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; and other key functions of higher education administration as they intersect with the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Drake has requested that Jody Stiger, UC’s director of community safety, ensure that staff members are responding appropriately to incidents of violence on campuses.
Additionally, Drake announced the creation of a systemwide civil rights office that has been in the works since 2022.
The announcement follows a joint statement from Drake and UC chancellors on Nov. 10 condemning bigotry on the system’s 10 campuses, including those in Riverside, Irvine and Los Angeles.
“Some of the rhetoric we have seen and heard over the past month at campus protests, online, in student government meetings and in classrooms has been shocking and abhorrent,” the statement says. “Let us be clear. There is no place for hate, bigotry, or intimidation at the University of California. Period.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom sent Drake a letter Monday, Nov. 13, demanding that campus safety be increased amid hundreds of complaints he has received from students, according to Politico.
“Here in California and across the nation, students have been physically assaulted for voicing support for Israel and targeted because of a Jewish, Arab or Muslim identity,” Newsom said. “Property has been vandalized with threats of violence and posters of kidnapped victims torn down. Antisemitism globally and at home has proliferated at a shocking speed and scale. And some faculty have inflamed the discourse with violent rhetoric.”
In a highly publicized incident, a UC Davis professor last month made threats in a social media post against “Zionist journalists who spread propaganda & misinformation.”
Across the U.S., universities are grappling with how to protect free speech in the wake of tumultuous protests on campuses from Israel and Palestinian supporters.
On Wednesday, Cornell University student Talia Dror testified that Jewish students received death threats targeting the Jewish dining hall.
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“I knew that with my roommates and I being openly Jewish community leaders, our apartment would be one of the first targets for someone looking to actualize the threats,” she said. “I thought back to the stories my mother told me growing up, how as a young child I found so much comfort in having the privilege of being protected by a country built on the foundation of equal opportunity and individual liberty.”
The Israel-Hamas war began Oct. 7 when Hamas-led Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip invaded southern Israel.
The Associated Press reported that at least 11,470 Palestinians — two-thirds of them women and minors — have been killed since the war began, according to Palestinian health authorities, who do not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people are reported missing.
Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial attack, and about 240 were taken captive by militants, according to the AP. About 10 of those kidnapped are Americans.