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UC Berkeley Professor’s Protest Shines Light on Campus Antisemitism Crisis

In response to alarming antisemitism on campus, political science professor Ron Hassner stages a sit-in, requesting the university take action.

At the heart of UC Berkeley, a distinguished political science professor, Ron Hassner, has taken an unconventional step to highlight a surge in antisemitism on campus, transforming his office into a living space and protest site. This act of resistance against the rising tide of Jew-hatred and the administration’s perceived inaction sheds light on the broader struggle faced by Jewish students and faculty in academic environments increasingly hostile to their identity and beliefs.

Ron Hassner’s decision to stage a sit-in within the confines of his office is not just a personal outcry but a symbol of the desperation and fear gripping the Jewish community at UC Berkeley. The protest underscores a reality where the word “Zionist” has been weaponized into a slur, and students expressing support for Israel are ostracized, harassed, and even subjected to violence. This atmosphere of intimidation culminated in a February incident where an event featuring an Israeli lawyer devolved into chaos, with attendees being spat at, assaulted, and subjected to antisemitic vitriol.

The administration’s response to these incidents, including statements condemning the violence and initiating investigations, appears insufficient to those directly affected. The Jewish students’ feeling of safety has been severely compromised, pushing them to seek refuge in spaces like Chabad, where they feel protected from the campus’s increasingly hostile environment.

Hassner’s protest brings three reasonable demands to the university’s doorstep: ensure permanent access through Sather Gate (which has been blocked by pro-Palestinian protesters), offer apologies and re-invitations to speakers forced off-campus by disruptive protests, and provide training on Islamophobia and antisemitism for staff. These requests aim to restore a sense of security and inclusivity for Jewish students and uphold the principles of free speech and academic freedom that Berkeley once famously championed.

The response from students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, highlights the importance of Hassner’s stand, transforming his office into a haven for open discussion and support. Yet, the broader implications of his protest and the violent events that preceded it raise critical questions about the university’s commitment to safeguarding its students and faculty from discrimination and harassment based on their ethnic or religious identities.

What remains of UC Berkeley’s reputation as a bastion of free speech and progressive thought is at stake as it grapples with these challenges. The administration’s actions in the wake of Hassner’s protest and the ongoing investigation into campus antisemitism will be a testament to its dedication to those principles. For now, Ron Hassner’s vigil serves as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by Jewish communities in academic settings and the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address and combat antisemitism on college campuses.

Robert Chernin

Robert Chernin

Robert B. Chernin has brought his years of political consulting and commentary back to radio. As a longtime entrepreneur, business leader, fundraiser and political confidant, Robert has a unique perspective with insights not heard anyway else. Robert has consulted on federal and statewide campaigns at the gubernatorial, congressional, senatorial, and presidential level. He served in leadership roles in the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush as well as McCain for President. He led Florida’s Victory 2004’s national Jewish outreach operations as Executive Director. In addition, he served on the President’s Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Robert co-founded and served as president of the Electoral Science Institute, a non-profit organization that utilizes behavioral science to increase voter participation and awareness. Robert can be heard on multiple radio stations and viewed on the “Of the People” podcast where you get your podcasts.