UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ released two letters Feb. 18 responding to an ASUC bill that would have condemned a cubicle display by Bears for Palestine, or BFP, in Eshleman Hall that included photos of controversial Palestinian activists — some of whom had allegedly been involved in acts of terrorism.
In her letters, Christ addressed both proponents and opposers of the bill, which was nearly unanimously voted against by the ASUC University and External Affairs Committee. The letters outlined plans to reinforce and spread awareness of anti-Semitism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia and all other threatening ideologies through Golden Bear Orientation, as well as the release of similar educational programs for faculty, staff and other community members on campus.
Campus student organizations and groups had mixed reactions to Christ’s letters, however.
“The chancellor’s blatant disregard for the death threats and harassment we have and still endure was disappointing, but not unexpected,” BFP said in an email. “We hope to work with school administration to ensure that they are properly educated about Palestine & the Palestinian struggle. This fight is long from over.”
In her letters, Christ supported the ASUC’s ability to serve as a place for respectful dialogue and also said campus Division of Student Affairs staff are consulting with the campus Restorative Justice Center to explore different ways of having productive conversations that involve controversial issues and divided parties.
“I applaud Chancellor Christ for acknowledging that BFP’s display is an affront to our university’s Principles of Community but would personally go beyond that and say that their display is an affront to human values,” said former ASUC senator Milton Zerman in an email.
ASUC Senator Sumrit Grewal said the letters were “very disappointing” and added that Christ “contradicted” her first statement and her statements at the Feb. 5 ASUC Senate meeting.
Student group Bears for Israel thanked Christ for condemning the posters and acknowledges BFP’s right to use its space freely, but believes that public spaces should not be used for these types of displays.
Christ also highlighted the issue of doxing and the attack of individual students online. She said in the letter ad hominem attacks ultimately prevent engagement in public discourse.
Her letter also noted that issues such as doxing, posting private information on public forums and targeting people as terrorists or criminals go against democratic values.
Josh Greenberg, president of Berkeley Hillel, thanked Christ for her condemnation of BFP’s posters but also condemned the student who spoke about eliminating Palestinians.
“This student’s views deeply oppose the values and beliefs of the Berkeley Hillel Student Board and Berkeley’s Zionist community,” Greenberg said in an email. “We advocate for productive dialogue in an effort to understand all of our pain surrounding this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is clearly extremely nuanced and complex.”