Monday, February 22, 2010

UCI Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez on 1st Amendment & Student Activism

Manuel Gomez in his plush office. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang, 2010. UPDATED: To listen to audio, click here: .

Irvine -- In a broad look back at his student activism days (when he hung the Black Flag of anarchism in his apartment), UCI Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, in the wake of growing controversy over the student disruption of the talk earlier this month of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, and the arrests of 12 students, discusses the First Amendment on campus, and states that UCI's Muslim Student Union will not be kicked off campus. He also states that images on student protest blogs of UCI Police taking down leaflets announcing protest events is "disturbing," but he is waiting for students to file formal complaints with his office.

Gomez says he grew up in a poverty-stricken "barrio" in Santa Ana and was active in various struggles in his student days, including fighting police abuse. He says he understands the passion and quest among young people for opposing oppression: "I understand it in my bone." His verdict on his protesting past: It was wrong to distrust people over 30. We also discuss cooptation.

In "Imagining the Future: Cultivating Civility in a Field of Discontent," Gomez focuses on the situation at UCI as tensions were addressed in the wake of the Zionist Organization of America's initial complaint to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights over the alleged mistreatment of Jewish students. ZOA has since also claimed UCI students solicited donations for Hamas during a talk at UCI of British Member of Parliament George Galloway.

In the article, written for Change Magazine, as well as on Subversity, Gomez argues that hate speech has been upheld by the courts as allowed under the First Amendment. The ZOA more recently has called for a boycott of UCI in terms of donations and enrollment.

UCI has also sent disciplinary letters to the 8 UCI students arrested, including MSU President Mohamed Abdelgany, a first step in campus administrative proceedings.

In response, the various Muslim activist groups, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have called on UCI allow "free speech" for protesters.

Gomez's interview is being aired this morning on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, at 9 am (simulcast via He is interviewed by Subversity host Daniel C. Tsang.

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