The University of California is committing $7 million to address what officials called “acts of bigotry, intolerance, and intimidation,” including incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism, that have occurred over the past several weeks on its campuses, where tensions are high because of the Israel-Hamas war.
Michael Drake, UC’s systemwide president, announced the funding during the board of regents meeting Wednesday and said it would go toward emergency mental health resources, new educational programs and additional training for leadership, faculty and staff.
Drake’s announcement came as Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have called on California’s public colleges and universities to make sure their campuses are safe for Jewish, Arab and Muslim students. The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters killed about 1,200 Israelis, including many children and other civilians. More than 11,000 have since been killed in Gaza by the Israeli military response, according to Gaza health officials.
“The war in Israel and Gaza presents a complex set of intersecting issues that require multiple solutions on multiple fronts.
Today we are doubling down on who we are: an educational institution that’s guided by facts and data, but also a moral compass that helps us find our way to compassion and understanding in difficult moments,” Drake said in remarks to the regents Wednesday.
UC board of regents Chair Richard Leib also called on UC’s campus leaders to investigate incidents of discrimination and “enforce discipline” when necessary. Leib said he has met with Jewish, Arab and Muslim students who do not feel safe on UC campuses.
“I’m appalled at the rise of hate speech directed at Arab and Muslim students, and I’m alarmed at the reports of threats and assaults and discrimination in the classroom experienced by our Jewish students,” Leib said.
Leib added that “no one can deny” that there have been incidents of harassment and assault directed at those students but said he doesn’t think there has been appropriate “enforcement of these clear violations.” Leib didn’t specify what actions campuses should take, but he said that if officials do find that such incidents have occurred, they should take “appropriate and swift action.”
The problem isn’t limited to California. Earlier this month, the Biden administration called on colleges to take action against an “alarming rise in reports of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate-based or bias-based incidents.”
In addition to the $7 million commitment, Drake also announced two additional steps his office is taking, including directing UC’s systemwide director of community safety to convene with the campuses and ensure that they are “responding appropriately to incidents of violence.”
Drake also announced the creation of a systemwide civil rights office, which he said has been in the works since last year and will house a new anti-discrimination office as well as a new disability rights office and UC’s existing systemwide Title IX office.
He said the new office would be “up and running” by the spring.
Prior to announcing those measures, Drake had been in “regular contact” with Newsom and state lawmakers, UC spokesman Ryan King said in a statement to EdSource.
Earlier this week, Newsom wrote in a letter to Drake and the leaders of the California State University and California Community Colleges systems that he had heard from “hundreds of students and families who feel unsafe and unwelcome on our college campuses” and called on college leaders to “cultivate spaces for affinity and dialogue.” The letter was first reported by Politico.
In a statement last week, Drake and UC’s 10 campus chancellors acknowledged and condemned the “alarming, profoundly disappointing acts of bigotry, intolerance, and intimidation we have seen on our campuses over these past several weeks” and pledged to do more.
Of the $7 million pledged by Drake’s office, $3 million will go toward emergency mental health resources, which will be available for students, faculty or staff “struggling with recent events or with the climate on their campus.” Another $2 million will go toward new educational programs across the campuses, including programs focused on better understanding antisemitism and Islamophobia and the history of the Middle East. The remaining $2 million will go toward training campus leadership, faculty and staff who want “guidance on how to navigate their roles as educators in this space,” Drake said.
Drake added that he and his staff would begin working immediately with the system’s 10 campuses to implement those steps.