a group of protesters shout and pump their fists in the air. there is a palestinian flag. some of them are wearing keffiyehs
Pro-Palestinian protesters effectively shut down a talk by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University, April 6, 2016. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

It’s time for SFSU to stand up for Jewish students

It’s not every day that Jewish leaders who normally work behind the scenes to effect change emerge to level serious charges against a major Bay Area institution. Yet that is what led to our story today about San Francisco State University.

Wong smiling
S.F. State University President Les Wong

Jewish faculty, students and community leaders interviewed by J. paint a disturbing picture of the campus climate for Jewish students, one made worse by the inaction of the university’s administration.

We should make clear that we believe San Francisco State University to be one of the Bay Area’s great institutions of higher learning. Its importance to the city cannot be overstated.

However, the problems detailed in our story cannot be minimized. Jewish students and faculty describe a pattern of neglect on the part of university officials when it comes to Jewish complaints.

Worse, they expose a record of coddling the most strident anti-Israel and anti-Zionist voices on campus to the point that these activists — students and faculty — have impinged with impunity on the rights, even the safety, of Jewish students.

The litany of abuses includes the infamous shout-down last year of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the botched reinvite of Barkat last month, and the seemingly deliberate exclusion of Hillel from a campus human rights fair, an act made all the more egregious because university officials apparently looked the other way.

Other than a few generic calls for civility and an agonizingly slow revamping of the rules of engagement for campus police, the S.F. State administration has done little to turn the tide.

Many of the individuals interviewed for our story hold S.F. State President Les Wong responsible. As the leader, indeed the buck stops with him. But SFSU Jewish students have faced bias long before Wong arrived. Within the university’s social justice culture lies an undercurrent of intolerance of Zionism (and, as history has shown, Jews). Thus anti-Israel groups such as the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), with their creed of “anti-normalization,” run roughshod on the free speech rights of Jewish students.

It is not too late to right this ship. President Wong can step up and lead. He can publicly affirm the right of Jewish students to make their pro-Zionist case on campus without fear of intimidation. He can call out the shameful tactics of GUPS and its supporters.

President Wong needs to show he means it when he says S.F. State is “a welcoming environment for all.”

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.