Roger L. Simon

UC Irvine's Free Speech Problem (UPDATED)

Given the unrelenting abusive outbursts by Muslim students during Michael Oren’s speech at UCI yesterday you would think the University of California Irvine was really the University of California Jenin – only Jenin probably would have been much more hospitable to the Israeli Ambassador. The students who verbally assaulted Oren throughout his talk were as politically self-destructive as they were emotionally out of control – eleven were arrested, according to the AP – but one wonders how the UCI officials allowed this to happen once again. It wasn’t as if they had no warning. Indeed, they had plenty of it.The record is very clear.

The University of California Irvine has a severe free speech problem and has had one for a long time. Part of this stems from the school’s history of what is politely called multi-culturalism – actually a euphemism for cultural relativism, a bankrupt pseudo-philosophy that provides a phony intellectual veneer to totalitarian behavior. Another part is good, old-fashioned anti-Semitism, which seems to be cropping up everywhere these days. A third part is even more old-fashioned cowardice, working in tandem with the other two.

School officials say they were embarrassed. They should be a lot more than that. They should rectify this situation immediately and in a serious way, because this is a serious case of racism. The reputation of the whole University of California system is at risk here in an era when taxpayers are in a justifiably rebellious mood. Given what’s happened, outside the sciences, it’s hard to regard Irvine as a legitimate educational institution. Why would any of us pay for what is happening there? The California Board of Regents and the administration of UCI should think about that.

(UPDATE: The first part of my interview with Ambassador Oren is here. A transcript will be available soon on PJM.)