CA bill seeks to enhance free speech after protesters disrupt Israeli speaker

S.B. 1287 aims to protect free speech on campuses by prohibiting violence, harassment, and discrimination hindering expression, sparked by recent protests disrupting an Israeli speaker.

The proposed legislation has bipartisan support and requires universities to enforce measures promoting a respectful exchange of ideas.

On March 20, California lawmakers announced a bill that would force universities in the state to safeguard free speech by prohibiting violence, harassment, and discrimination that obstructs free expression.

This announcement comes in the wake of violent protestors shouting down an Israeli speaker and disrupting his speech during February. Specifically, pro-Palestine demonstrators smashed a window during Israeli lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat’s speech at UC Berkeley, according to The San Francisco Chronicle

[RELATED: Berkeley group refuses to apologize for violent protests, proclaims ‘glory’ to ‘martyrs’ and those who fight Israel ‘physically’]

S.B. 1287 aims to remedy acts of violence and intimidation that obstruct speech, like what happened at UC Berkeley in February.

The bill states that “it is the policy of the public segments of postsecondary education to eliminate harassment, intimidation, and discrimination that undermine certain objectives.”

The legislation would require the Trustees of the California State University and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges to implement more campus policies to “prohibit violence, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination” that would “interfere with the free exchange of ideas.”

Schools would also be required to “maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions for public protest” and “develop mandatory training programs to educate students on how to exchange views in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility.” 

According to The Jewish News of Northern California, the proposed legislation has received bipartisan support from more than 20 legislators.

“Whether it’s a Muslim student in a hijab, or a Jewish student in a kippah, everyone deserves the right to be physically safe on our campuses,” Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel reportedly said during a recent press conference. “Everyone deserves the right to walk across campus without being physically attacked, and everyone deserves the right to peacefully express their views.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a recent interview that the school has not begun the disciplinary procedure for any students who may have been involved in the recent anti-Semitic display.

“[W]e never do a student conduct investigation until the police have completed the criminal investigation, because we don’t in any way want to interfere with the criminal investigation,” she told The Jewish News of Northern California.

“Then, when the police finish their investigation, we look at both who the individuals are who are involved, whether they’re students and whether there’s a violation of our student conduct policies,” she continued.

Christ was also asked if groups of protestors chanting “intifada, intifada” violated school policy.

“I don’t think so,” Christ replied.

[RELATED: Department of Education investigating UC Berkeley after violent mob shut down Jewish event]

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the bill’s author, California Senator Steve Glazer, has said that the measures included in the legislation could be enforced by the state legislature, including by withholding funds from universities that do not comply.

“It’s OK to disagree with fellow students, it’s OK to express discontent with the university and it’s OK to protest,” Glazer said, according to the outlet. “However, the First Amendment does not allow students to harass their peers.”

Campus Reform has contacted all 10 University of California campus administrations for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.