Officials at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) appear to be “burying” the institution’s own investigation into a violent anti-Israel protest in May, leaving student demonstrators off the hook for their actions, the heads of two Israel advocacy campus groups told The Algemeiner on Monday.
“UCI is dragging out the investigation,” said Ilan Sinelnikov, founder and president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), whose UCI chapter was the target of a violent protest. “The school’s administration hasn’t really been in contact with us. They’ve supposedly been in contact with some students — a few questions here and there — but not much more.”
Earlier in July, as reported by The Algemeiner, UCI’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) came under investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s (DS) office to determine whether the behavior of protesters was criminal.
As reported by The Algemeiner, SJP and other anti-Israel student groups at UCI violently demonstrated against a SSI event featuring IDF veterans and the screening of a movie about the Israeli army.
According to reports at the time, the anti-Israel protesters at UCI blockaded attendees and shouted, “Long live the intifada,” “f*** the police,” “displacing people since ‘48/ there’s nothing here to celebrate” and “all white people need to die.” One female student was harassed and chased, to the point that she was forced to flee and take refuge inside a nearby building. Police were eventually called in, but allowed the protest to continue.
Last week, the DA’s office announced the results of its investigation, which concluded that SJP did not engage in any criminal wrongdoing, the OC Register reported.
According to SSI’s Sinelnikov, “It’s okay that criminal charges aren’t pressed against SJP. What we care about is keeping SJP off campus and having them punished by the university. UCI needs to come up with some ultimatum, or even something harsher, against its local SJP chapter.”
Aron Hier, director of campus outreach at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), told The Algemeiner that “just because the criminal aspect is not moving forward, it doesn’t mean that other rules and policies weren’t broken.”
“There are two valuable remaining fronts. Civil action can be taken, which would require a victim to come forward. The second option — and the one that involves the SWC the most — is that if any university rules have been broken, all wrongdoers must be punished,” he said. “One of three prongs has been removed, but there are two remaining legs to this chair.”
Despite reassurances from UCI officials of a swift investigation, Sinelnikov believes that at this point, “The university will try and bury this situation, which we’re seeing across many other universities when it comes to investigating Palestinian groups.”
“Let’s say this case was about white versus black students on campus. This problem would have been solved right away,” he told The Algemeiner. “As soon as it comes down to Jewish students and Israel, it’s a whole different story and every single time, against and again, these things get dragged out. There is not enough pressure against these universities.”
Echoing Sinelnikov’s sentiments, SWC’s Hier said he is “at a complete loss” as to why UCI is dragging out the investigation. “I myself spoke with a university official about a month ago, and was assured the investigation would be wrapped up as of three weeks ago,” he said.
Both Sinelnikov and Hier called on UCI to publish its findings upon concluding its investigation, and not — as many universities have known to do — seal them.
“We want transparency and the public has a right to know,” said Sinelnikov.
“The public at large has a right to be able to access UCI’s findings. We want a chance to access the evidence and see what UCI’s fact-finding process shows,” said Hier.
While the UCI investigation appears to be ongoing, there is no word as to when the university will officially announce its findings. According to Sinelnikov, more pressure needs to be brought on UCI officials to push them to take this matter more seriously.
“Often, when something happens to Jewish or pro-Israel students, a lot of organizations get involved and say, ‘Let’s solve this through the administration and behind the scenes. We want to be on the school’s good side,’” he said. “Every time that’s the case and things are trying to be solved behind the scenes, nothing ever happens. You will only ever see results when the fight is brought to the public’s attention, because the university doesn’t want the bad publicity. Only then do they really begin to feel the pressure.”
“Pressure on the ground forces the university of act. This should be the new mentality of all pro-Israel organizations fighting this fight,” Sinelnikov told The Algemeiner.
UCI spokesperson Cathy Lawhon told The Algemeiner on Monday that all allegations that the university is stalling its own investigation are “absolutely untrue.”
“UCI’s investigation of the May 18 incident is still underway, guided by formal policies and due process procedures, as outlined in the student handbook. We respect this process, and recognize that students have the right to respond to claims and clarify information,” she said. “Decisions in this matter will be based on careful and neutral review of the facts, and cannot be rushed by third parties. We will update our community once the investigation is complete and appropriate courses of actions are determined.”