UCLA chancellor expresses regret for not addressing encampment sooner during Congressional appearance

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This story was updated with additional quotes and information from Thursday’s hearing.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block expressed remorse for not taking prompt action to dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment that faced violence from counter protesters last month during his testimony before a congressional committee on Thursday.

“Looking back, we should have been prepared to promptly disperse the encampment if our community’s safety was at risk,” stated Block during his address to the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

As a Jewish individual, Block gave his testimony in Washington, D.C., at a hearing on antisemitism on college campuses, making him the first California chancellor or president to testify on this matter before the committee.

Block, alongside Michael Schill from Northwestern University and Jonathan Holloway from Rutgers University, spoke before the committee, with Holloway and especially Schill facing more rigorous questioning compared to Block.

During the hearing, Block provided insights into the situation surrounding the encampment that emerged at UCLA, attracting over 500 protesters, some of whom were not affiliated with the university.

Initially following UC system guidelines to use law enforcement only when necessary to ensure campus safety, Block opted to remove the encampment on April 28 after it grew significantly. Despite serving a written notice on April 30, violence erupted later that night from counter demonstrators.

Simultaneously, while Block testified before lawmakers, protesters set up a new encampment on UCLA’s campus.

During the hearing, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) criticized Block for not preventing the violent attacks, stating that it could have been avoided to protect peaceful pro-Palestinian groups.

When asked about the assailants, Block mentioned that the Los Angeles police are still working on identifying them, prompting a response from Omar on the delay of over a month.

Block also addressed concerns that the encampment hindered Jewish and pro-Israel students’ access on campus, noting steps taken to keep pathways open, which received criticism from Rep. Kevin Kiley.

Rep. Virginia Foxx condemned Block for the incident, citing footage of encampment members creating illegal checkpoints.

Republican lawmakers directed more questions at Schill from Northwestern University, highlighting an agreement he made with pro-Palestinian protesters and criticized him for it, despite Schill clarifying that a divestment demand was rejected.

Following the hearing, faculty members from universities involved criticized the proceedings, with one UCLA English professor calling it a “shameful farce” that detracts from the core functions of higher education.

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