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We Cannot Let it Go Unanswered and A Promise to Remember

UC Irvine Students and Faculty

What follows are two speeches delivered in December at UCI opposing US/Israeli war policy and UC Irvine speech policy. The authors of the speeches are members of UCI Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and UCI Faculty for Justice (FJP) in Palestine who choose to remain unidentified here.


We Cannot Let It Go Unanswered

I speak to you today on behalf of the Faculty for Justice in Palestine. We are a group of UCI faculty members who are horrified by the genocide currently unfolding in Gaza and by the regime of coordinated death through apartheid, starvation, and dispossession that have been perpetrated in Palestine by the Israeli regime for decades. Today, we are also deeply concerned about the most recent attempts by UC administrators to silence Palestinian students and their allies. Right now, as I speak, five faculty from FJP are inside Aldrich Hall delivering a letter on behalf of SJP and all the student organizers sponsoring this rally today to Chancellor Gillman’s office, the office of Student Affairs, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence. That letter includes a set of urgent demands around free speech, protection against harassment, and divestment. I am here today to speak specifically about FJP’s demands around the student conduct charges currently being used punitively, to silence students who speak in support of Palestinians. 

In recent weeks, multiple students and faculty members at UCI have been the targets of harassment simply for shedding light on the long-standing oppression of the Palestinian people. We demand that the UCI administration publicly affirm their commitment to freedom of speech, the right to assembly and to protect students from physical and verbal harassment. 

We were horrified to learn that UCI administration has unjustly issued student conduct charges of “disturbance of peace” and “disorderly and lewd conduct” against multiple UCI undergraduate and graduate students for peaceful, protected protests. We reject these accusations and demand that any and all charges be immediately dropped. We demand that UCI put an end to its long-standing practice of targeting SJP. 

One of the events that UCI issued charges of “disruption” against students for was a lecture on November 14th. Members of FJP attended this teach-in, and we affirm that not a single act, word, or gesture on the part of the students could be sincerely described as lewd, disorderly, or disruptive. Students did not block access to the event. They did not disrupt its planned course; they did not prevent the speaker from delivering his speech. Their words could not be considered offensive, even though members of the audience shouted at them, spat on them, and pushed them from the room. Yet a UCI graduate student is facing student conduct complaints for “disorderly conduct” and intentionally vague allegations of “disruption” for her effort to speak at this event. Those same intentionally vague allegations are also being used to target and board members of Students for Justice in Palestine for Pro-Palestine rallies on campus. These rallies were sponsored by 16 other on-campus groups and were entirely peaceful expressions of legitimate political speech and solidarity. In this context, the filing of student conduct allegations appears to be a targeted attack on the free speech rights of students critical of Zionist forces in Palestine and of U.S. involvement in genocide. We demand an immediate end to these efforts to weaponize student conduct procedures to silence student protest and dissenting perspectives at UCI. 

In an email from November, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman misrepresented UC policy on tolerance and manipulated important prohibitions against discrimination by falsely associating anti-Zionism with antisemitism. This association is used to repress the speech of student activists and advocates and represents a dire threat to the academic freedom of faculty as well. 

To my fellow faculty, we ask you: is this the campus community you want to be a part of? Is this what academic freedom, debate, and protest ought to look like, with our students censored and punished for expressing their rage, their grief, the desires for solidarity reflected in the extraordinary number and diversity of student groups who have organized this rally? What does our work as teachers and scholars mean if we allow this kind of institutional repression to go unanswered? The answer is: we cannot let it go unanswered.

We demand that the UCI administration publicly affirm that academic freedom protects all forms of political speech, including critiques of Israeli regime’s policies and Zionist political ideology, and that such speech must not be reductively and cynically equated with antisemitism. We denounce the abuse of student conduct procedures to silence those who speak in support of Palestinians. We demand that UCI cease their unlawful censorship of or discrimination against students, faculty, or staff, especially Palestinian students. We demand that UCI immediately reverse all adverse actions taken against Pro-Palestinian students. Faculty stand in solidarity with their students, inspired by their commitment and moral clarity and we emphatically condemn the UCI administration’s unjust suppression of speech and advocacy for Palestinian liberation from the river to the sea.


A Promise to Remember

Thank you, each and every single one of you, for being here. Before we begin, we want to acknowledge over 16,000 (sic) lives, lives we consider as precious as every one of ours, that we have lost to the Zionist genocide over these past 2 months. Today is December 7, it marks two months since the Israeli regime claims the start of their brutal war, but we know that this is a two-month chapter in a decades-long history.

We are here today as a collective of graduate students, who put this together because it is impossible to resume business as usual, to allow this university, and the cowards and genocidaires who run it, to continue profiting off this genocide. We are here today because we refuse everything you have to offer, and we demand, with our bodies, with our hearts, through our labor and through our actions, that you rise to meet this moment instead of choosing the side of the oppressor. We refuse to let this university get away with choosing, for so long, to repress and criminalize students advocating for Palestine. We refuse to let you forget how long you've chosen to oppress, to harm, and to brutalize. We refuse to let you malign the beauty and resilience of Palestinian resistance. We refuse to let you forget, we refuse to let you continue.

When we were on strike, a year ago today, we learned so much about the function of this university. We learned that UC exists, sitting on stolen land, generating profit in perpetuity off of the labor of people who it will not house or feed, and operating as a neoliberal site of capitalist extraction, selling an education while extorting students to do so. But we know that you are nothing without us, the educators and workers who make your university function. Our knowledge, that helps us teach students, has also helped us learn who our enemies are. We know that our labor and the beauty of our teaching has never been about the university, its always been about our people. Bringing learning back to the people who we learn from, the people this university has a hand in extracting, incarcerating, dispossessing, both here and around the world. Just a few months after our strike ended, after we fought tirelessly for the UC to recognize us, to give us enough to survive, to feed ourselves, and to be able to provide the kind of education we aim to provide for our community, we watched the UC expose itself once again. After lying about how they couldn't afford to pay us, they invested billions of dollars into boosting Blackstone. There's money for real-estate vultures who render communities homeless, and for weapons manufacturers who destroy families, who are responsible for the haunting images coming out of Gaza seared into many of our brains, for the cries from under the rubble we will never be able to silence. But, there's never enough to pay faculty, TAs, or to lift the burden of strangling tuition prices from your students.

This is why we stand in unwavering and total solidarity with the people of Palestine. It's why your morally bankrupt and cowardly strategies, of charging innocent Jewish graduate students and Palestinian and Arab undergraduate students alike, of holding their educations as ransom over their heads, will never work. All this does, all it will ever do, is show us who you are, and remind us what we fight for. You will not strip our agency to build the world we deserve.

Chancellor Gillman, you are a coward, a snake, and pathetic. You have proven time and time again that you are a callous and heartless man, and an enemy to colonized people. You refused to apologize for your first statement, you lied about UC policy in your second statement, and you've sat by while your students have undergone tremendous suffering, unmoved by their pain because it doesn't personally effect you. Your "year of free speech" is a joke, and this moment has exposed you as the careerist fraud you are. You, and this whole administration, the OEOD, those at the Israel

Institute, Regent Michael Drake, you are all complicit. When Palestine is free, and it will be free, there will come a day where you will desperately try to hide the fact that you chose to act this way. UCI will try to cover up its history, like the Irvine 11, the disbanding of SJP, the criminalization of resistance. We will not let you. We will remember this forever.

Understand that we are stronger than these cowards. Not only are we on the right side of history, but we are committed to this fight together. We determine what happens on this campus. We must make them realize this truth in their bodies today, that we determine the kind of world we want to live in. We have undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, fighting as one, for the liberation of the oppressed, for the promise of a Free Palestine in our lifetimes. We will let the administration know today that we demand, together, that UCI protects students from harassment, that they drop the baseless charges against graduate and undergraduate students speaking up in a hostile environment for what is right, and that they divest materially and ideologically from Zionism. We will not stop until these demands are met, and we know that you all will show them we will not be intimidated. We will keep fighting until Palestine is free, from the river to the sea.

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