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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Guest opinion: Linda P.B. Katehi

Dear UC Davis community members,

Many of you are already aware of a series of distressing acts that have taken place on our campus and throughout the UC system in recent weeks, behavior that in at least one instance is likely criminal and in all cases reprehensible, inexcusable and an affront to our own campus’s Principles of Community.

Earlier this week, UC Davis campus police reported that one of our Jewish students found a swastika carved into the door of her residence hall room, an act of thoughtless vandalism that is being investigated as a hate crime. Last week, members of the University of California community were distressed to learn that members of UC San Diego’s Greek fraternal community had allegedly organized an event called the “Compton Cookout.” The invitations to this event encouraged participants to mock Black History Month by promoting negative and offensive racial and gender stereotypes. And a couple of weeks ago at UC Irvine, a small group of students attempted to disrupt and shout down the Israeli Ambassador to the United States as he made remarks at a speaking event.

This sort of behavior cannot and should not be tolerated, on our campus or anywhere else. It should be condemned by all members of our campus and university community. We cannot ignore deliberate acts that demean and threaten others based on race, ethnicity, gender, national origin or any personal characteristics. When we see and hear such abhorrent language and behavior that is connected to current or historical acts of violence, hatred or abuse, our sense of community and shared respect is damaged. It’s hard to feel welcome or safe in a community where such language and behavior is considered acceptable or tolerated.

Building an academic community requires a careful balance of the rights and needs of many that are sometimes in conflict. But acts of free speech or freedom of expression are not protected when they prohibit or suppress the speech of others. Our campuses are special places for the pursuit of knowledge and exchange of ideas, views and differing opinions. It is critical that all members of our campus community conduct themselves with civility and respect for the dignity inherent in every member of our community.

Our Principles of Community (principles.ucdavis.edu) require each of us to recognize the obligation we have to our community to maintain a campus environment of civility and respect in which every student, faculty staff and group can thrive. We will begin our annual weeklong celebration of our Principles of Community next week (Mar. 1 to 4). The Feb. 26 issue of Dateline UC Davis (dateline.ucdavis.edu) will have an article on the 20th anniversary celebration of the principles as well as a new online training tool to help us live by these time-tested principles.

I invite you to participate in the various activities and events designed to promote diversity, foster an appreciation for differences and build a more inclusive campus community.

2 COMMENTS

  1. forstudentpower: it is evident that you, or someone you know, had something to do with the swaztica.

    First of all, in regards to UCI, their Muslim Student Union brings anti-Israel/Pro-Palestinian speakers and events all the time, much more that pro-Israeli speakers come to campus (and the same happens at UCD). Also, there is a direct connection to hate crimes on campus and controversial speakers. Every time a student group, any student group, brings a controversial speaker, it usually rally’s people in support of whatever the cause. I have no doubt that whoever vandalized that student’s door with a swastica had attended anti-Israel speakers and events. While I do not believe freedom of speech should be stifled, nor should any student group be prohibited from speakers they invite or events they host, when those speakers or event incite hatred towards others, I don’t think it should be allowed.

  2. Really? You’re lumping a carved swastika on a Jewish student’s door with a political protest of a speech?

    You’re suggesting that the Israeli Ambassador, one of the most important dignitaries in the country is truly oppressed and harmed when UC students interrupt him on their own campus? Free speech doesn’t happen in a vacuum, Ms. Chancellor. The context matters. (Like the fact that students were prohibited from offering a speaker with an opposing viewpoint to the very controversial statements that Michael Oren was making.)

    I pity those who have such a stale, calcified notion of free speech.

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