Sounding Off: MSU's suspension warranted

A college campus is supposed to be a place where learning takes place. Unfortunately, UC Irvine's Muslim Student Union continues to demonstrate its difficulty understanding that concept.

Earlier this week the UCI administration recommended that the MSU be suspended for one year, and be put on probation the next.

MSU had allegedly committed major violations of UCI policy and the core principles of academic freedom when it attempted to aggregate to itself the decision of who has a right to speak on campus and who does not.

It orchestrated a tag-team disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech last February and then, as the administration learned from emails and text messages, MSU allegedly lied about what it had done.

Rather than take the opportunity to reflect on what had warranted administration action, MSU continues to try and paint itself as a victim, complaining that the university's recommended consequence is unfair collective punishment.

MSU also displays a remarkable capacity for unintended irony.

In February, it maintained that it had the right to shut down Oren's speech in order to express its members' free speech rights.

And now, complaining about UCI's actions, incoming MSU President Asaad Traina laments that, without the MSU, Muslim students would be denied "a sense of community with one another and with the broader UCI campus community."

But it was the disdain for the broader community — other's rights to hear speakers to whom they wanted to listen— that got MSU into this mess in the first place.

MSU has allowed itself to be run for years by hateful people. One can have an affinity for co-religionists without sponsoring program after program that demonize human beings from different backgrounds.

MSU may have had the right to bring hateful speakers, and the university supported its ability to bring even the most deplorable demagogues to campus.

But MSU was not satisfied.

It saw its mission as justifying intimidation, harassment and deceit. By its disdain for others in the UCI community, and its dogmatic belief that it could play by different rules, MSU got exactly what was warranted.

The question now is, whether it will learn from its mistakes, or continue to assert that its bad behavior was warranted.

Rabbi Marc Dworkin is the Orange County regional director for the American Jewish Committee and Kenneth Stern is the AJC county chapter's director of anti-Semitism & extremism.

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