UC allocates $7 million to combat Islamophobia and antisemitism in campus settings

The University of California has allocated $7 million to combat instances of “bigotry, intolerance, and intimidation” that have taken place recently on its campuses, particularly incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism. The heightened tensions on campuses are a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The president of UC, Michael Drake, announced the funding during a meeting of the board of regents on Wednesday. He stated that the money would be used for emergency mental health resources, new educational programs, and additional training for leadership, faculty, and staff.

Drake’s announcement comes in response to the calls from Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to ensure the safety of Jewish, Arab, and Muslim students on California’s public college campuses. The war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 and has resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis and more than 11,000 Palestinians, as reported by Gaza health officials.

“The Israel and Gaza conflict raises a complex set of intertwined issues that require multiple solutions from various angles. Today, we are reaffirming our commitment as an educational institution guided by facts and data, and grounded in a moral compass that helps us navigate through difficult moments with compassion and understanding,” stated Drake during his remarks to the regents.

The chair of the UC board of regents, Richard Leib, has also urged campus leaders to investigate incidents of discrimination and take disciplinary action when necessary. According to Leib, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim students have expressed feeling unsafe on UC campuses.

“I am deeply disturbed by the increase in hate speech targeting Arab and Muslim students, and I am alarmed by the reports of threats, assaults, and discrimination against our Jewish students in classrooms,” said Leib.

Leib acknowledged that incidents of harassment and assault against these students have taken place, and he believes there has not been adequate enforcement to address these clear violations. While he did not specify the actions that should be taken, he emphasized the need for “appropriate and swift action” if such incidents are found to have occurred.

This issue extends beyond California. Recently, the Biden administration urged colleges to address the “alarming rise in reports of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate-based or bias-based incidents.”

In addition to the $7 million commitment, Drake announced two other steps that his office is taking. One of these steps involves directing the director of community safety at UC to coordinate with campuses and ensure appropriate responses to incidents of violence.

Furthermore, Drake announced the establishment of a systemwide civil rights office, which has been in development since last year. This office will house an anti-discrimination office, a disability rights office, and UC’s existing systemwide Title IX office. Drake expects this new office to be operational by the spring.

Prior to these measures, Drake had been in regular communication with Governor Newsom and state lawmakers, according to UC spokesperson Ryan King.

Earlier this week, Newsom wrote a letter to Drake and the leaders of California State University and California Community Colleges, in which he expressed concerns about the safety and inclusivity of college campuses. The letter, first reported by Politico, highlighted the input from “hundreds of students and families” who feel unwelcome and unsafe.

Drake and the chancellors of UC’s 10 campuses released a statement last week acknowledging and condemning the recent acts of bigotry, intolerance, and intimidation on their campuses. They also pledged to take further action.

Out of the $7 million pledged by Drake’s office, $3 million will be allocated to emergency mental health resources for students, faculty, and staff affected by recent events or the campus climate. Another $2 million will be used for new educational programs, including those focused on better understanding antisemitism, Islamophobia, and the history of the Middle East. The remaining $2 million will be utilized for training campus leadership, faculty, and staff seeking guidance in navigating their roles as educators in this context, according to Drake.

Drake and his team will immediately begin working with the 10 UC campuses to implement these initiatives.

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