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Student union deserves fair hearing

June 26, 2010

UC Irvine officials have taken the rare step of recommending that a student organization be suspended for a year. A campus investigation into the Muslim Student Union's alleged role in disrupting a Feb. 8 speech at UCI by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren concluded that the MSU not only planned, instigated and orchestrated the ruckus, but also lied to officials about its hand in that unpleasant and unnecessary turn of events.

It culminated in the arrests of nine UCI students and two UC Riverside students. Campus police may have gone too far in arresting the 11, but we do not think that the decision to recommend the MSU's suspension is too extreme. Gleaning from evidence referred to in a 14-page official UCI letter that spelled out the charges and findings in the probe of the MSU, we believe that UCI officials acted appropriately in recommending be suspension.

Judging by the details and facts carefully presented in the letter signed by Lisa Cornish — the UCI official who was tasked with leading the conduct probe into the union's alleged role in Feb. 8 — the MSU appears to have committed a calculated act aimed more at disruption than in the free exchange of ideas.

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The letter contains a synopsis of evidence gathered through interviews with students, officials and authorities, various videos filmed at the event, the testimony of witnesses and other material, that appears solid.

The Cornish letter shows that the union held a general assembly on Feb. 3, where the "Israeli Ambassador Event" was listed on the agenda.

During the discussion of that agenda item, the letter says, MSU students talked about sending "the speaker a message — our goal should be that he knows that can't go to a campus and say what he wants…."

Cornish's report goes on to describe how MSU members talked about planting so-called "disruptors" in the crowd, who would stand up and read scripted messages from index cards.

"Be VERY LOUD, firm and strong … but remain composed and under control," according to an excerpt cited in the letter. "Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Remember that this is a planned/calculated response and not a venting session."

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