UC president Yudof: Speech is protected

At Rose Project event, Constitution expert says he can't prohibit UC students from speaking against political policies.

November 06, 2010|By Tom Ragan,
  • Mark G. Yudof spoke to the Rose Project Distinguished Lecture Series at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach on Thursday night.
Mark G. Yudof spoke to the Rose Project Distinguished… (Aaron Huniu Photography,…)

Editor's note: This corrects the spelling of Hussam Ayloush's name.

NEWPORT BEACH — University of California President Mark Yudof spoke before an estimated 350 people at Temple Bat Yahm on Thursday night, telling the predominantly Jewish crowd that he doesn't condone the anti-Semitic statements occasionally made on UC campuses, not just at UC Irvine.

But the reality, Yudof said, is that there is nothing he can do about it because they are protected under the 1st Amendment, which allows for free speech and the right to assemble.

He said he receives hundreds of e-mails daily from angry people in the wake of such protests or activities, and that they all ask him the same thing: Why doesn't he come out and condemn the anti-Semitic remarks made among the more politically involved Muslim student groups on campus?

"Well, I have condemned the speeches," he said. "I do condemn all the anti-Israel speeches, I condemn all the anti-Semitic utterances. I've said that before, and I'm saying it now, and I'll say it in writing again."


But by law, Yudof said, he cannot censor the speeches, "no matter how horrific they are."

Nor, he added, can he "shut down" the activities that occur on campus. The long and short of it, said Yudof, who is an expert in the U.S. Constitution, is that everything is within the legal rights of students when they speak out against Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.

Still, Yudof compared some of the anti-Semitic activities to the equivalent of the "Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan" coming to campus and giving speeches and holding rallies.

"It's plain vanilla bigotry," he said.

His remarks were also couched and tempered as a result of tension that's built up over the past few years between the Muslim Student Union and Jewish students at UCI.

In February, 11 students from the UCI MSU were arrested after they repeatedly interrupted a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who had planned to talk about the state of U.S.-Israeli relations.

The students said they were merely exercising their free speech rights, but Yudof said that's no defense.

"There is no right to drown out a speaker," he said.

But as far as the MSU and Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, are concerned, the students had every right to voice their opinions.

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