The disciplinary recommendation of a year-long suspension for the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at the University of California, Irvine, is the subject of debate today in the Los Angeles Times. As reported here on The Torch last week, the university suspended the entire group—as opposed to simply pursuing charges against the individual students who participated in a coordinated set of disruptions of a lecture by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in February. MSU has appealed, and the Times notes that individual disciplinary charges against eleven students—three from UC Riverside in addition to eight from UC Irvine—are also being pursued.
MSU’s attorney alleges that external pressure contributed to the decision, arguing that previous disruptions at UCI did not result in similar sanctions. UCI disagrees:
University officials say the difference this time lies in the Muslim group’s alleged planning of its Feb. 8 activities, and its later denial. According to a disciplinary report released last week, the suspension was based on evidence in the organization’s e-mails and meeting minutes, showing that members planned to shout down the Israeli envoy. The group’s subsequent denials of involvement added greatly to the discipline, UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said.
FIRE’s Adam Kissel likewise contests the likelihood that political pressure played a serious role:
At least one free speech advocate said UC Irvine appeared to have based its decision on the case’s merits, not any political pressure. "The university was free to make its own decision because no matter what it decided to do, it would receive both blame and praise," said Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which protects students’ religious and free speech rights.