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A Rare Victory for Free Speech at UC Irvine
by Sara Dogan
The incident occurred in February when Israeli ambassador Michael Oren spoke at UC Irvine. According to the disciplinary committee's findings, members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) disrupted the speech by standing up and yelling, one after the other, creating a chaotic situation in which the speaker could not continue. Even after warnings and entreaties from faculty and administrators present at the speech who pleaded with the students to affirm the principles of free speech and an open dialogue on campus, the MSU continued its obstruction. Finally, Ambassador Oren was forced to abandon his address.
The report filed by the Irvine disciplinary committee which investigated the incident is astonishing—not only because of what it reveals about the actions of the MSU— but because it is almost unheard of for a university to bother to examine the organized and deliberate silencing of campus speakers and punish those guilty. And the evidence shows that the demonstration was not spontaneous: the Muslim Student Union conspired to interrupt Oren's speech and ensure that he was unable to state his views on campus.
The disciplinary committee concluded that, "The disruptions were planned, orchestrated and coordinated in advance by the Muslim Student Union," and noted that during one meeting prior to Oren's speech MSU members had discussed how to "send the speaker a message – our goal should be that he knows that he can't just go to a campus and say whatever he wants." The committee further found that following the disruption of Oren's speech, the MSU engineered a cover-up and instructed its membership to lie about the organization's involvement in the protests. As a result of its investigation, the disciplinary committee decided to suspend the Muslim Student Union for one year. The MSU is appealing the decision.
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