Campus & community, Campus news

Upholding our values

By Public Affairs

Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin sent the following message to the Berkeley campus community Tuesday afternoon.

We write to you today with great sadness, concern, and dismay in the wake of an incident on our campus last night, an incident that violated not only our rules, but also some of our most fundamental values. Our purpose is not just to inform our community about what happened. We are writing with the hope that we can and will come together in defense of our Principles of Community that safeguard free speech, diversity of perspective and the ties that bind this community together.

Last night an event was scheduled featuring a speaker from Israel, who had been invited to campus by some of our student organizations. Minutes before the event was to start, a crowd of some 200 protesters began to surround the building. Doors were broken open and the protesters gained unauthorized entry to the building. The event was canceled, and the building was evacuated to protect the speaker and members of the audience.

We want to express our deep remorse and sympathy to those students and members of the public who were in the building, fearing for their safety. Today, like last night, our colleagues in Student Affairs are reaching out with offers of support and we are urging students to report what they witnessed and experienced to UCPD and/or our Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination. We share your anger and concern, and we understand that we must do all that we can to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Due to safety concerns, we worked with the hosting organization to move the event to a different location, one that was believed to be more secure. We also stepped up security and sent a team of UCPD officers to the event. We approach events like this with two priorities: to do what we can so that the event can go forward, and to do what we can to safeguard student safety and well-being. Last night, despite our efforts and the ample number of police officers, it was not possible to do both given the size of the crowd and the threat of violence.

We are committed to responding to violations of our "Time, Place, and Manner" rules. We deeply respect the right to protest as intrinsic to the values of a democracy and an institution of higher education. Yet, we cannot ignore protest activity that interferes with the rights of others to hear and/or express perspectives of their choosing. We cannot allow the use or threat of force to violate the First Amendment rights of a speaker, no matter how much we might disagree with their views. We cannot allow the use or threat of force to imperil members of our community and deny them the ability to feel safe and welcome on our campus. We cannot cede our values to those willing to engage in transgressive behavior.

We will in the days ahead decide on the best possible path to fully understand what happened and why; to determine how we will address what occurred; and to do everything possible to preclude a repeat of what happened.

The attack on the building, and on the event, was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which are also essential to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation. We are now, and will remain in the future, committed to Free Speech as essential to our educational mission, our institutional identity, and the strength of our community. We hope for your support as we seek to protect and preserve our Principles of Community.