Campus Responses to the Crisis
UC Berkeley Campus Responses to the Crisis — Supporting Jewish Students, Faculty, and Staff
An Update Prepared by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Life and Campus Climate (CACJLCC)
Since October 7, 2023, students, faculty, staff, and administrators at UC Berkeley have undertaken a variety of initiatives to support the needs of the university’s Jewish students, faculty, and staff in this time of crisis. The goals have been to maintain the strength and unity of our campus Jewish community, and to provide educational content and discussion forums to process and learn about developments in Israel and the surrounding region. These efforts have been coordinated among several different academic, administrative, and community units, working in ensemble. While we face very real challenges and are always working to improve, the efforts we have undertaken are proving vital in tangible ways to the resiliency of our students, staff, and faculty during this difficult time.
Programming and events
Since Oct. 7, UC Berkeley faculty and staff affiliated with the Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), the Antisemitism Education Initiative (AEI), and the Helen Diller for Jewish Law and Israel Studies (HDI) have devoted significant time to creating spaces for the campus community to learn about and navigate the situation in the Middle East. Affiliates of these units have created talks, panels, and educational sessions – in some cases offering programs on a daily basis. Our efforts have included a mix of public events and more intimate programs connecting directly with students, faculty, and staff in partnership with Berkeley Hillel and HDI.
Coordination of campus efforts
In addition to creating opportunities for learning and dialogue, faculty and staff from CJS, the AEI, and HDI, along with the leadership of Chabad and Berkeley Hillel, have engaged in countless meetings and communications with student leaders and senior campus officials (including leadership of the Division of Equity & Inclusion, the Division of Student Affairs, the head of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, the Provost, and the Chancellor) to share information, strategize responses to incidents, and to ensure coordination around campus security measures. In addition to the often daily conversations these faculty and staff participate in, representatives from throughout the campus and the broader community participate in meetings and communications via the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Life and Campus Climate (CACJLCC), which informs campus stakeholders of the concerns and needs of Jewish students, faculty, and staff. In particular, four individuals have coordinated closely through constant communication with each other, students, and campus leadership: Ethan Katz, Professor of History, Director of CJS, and chair of the CACJLCC; Ron Hassner, Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the HDI; Gregg Drinkwater, Program Director of the AEI; and Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, Executive Director of Berkeley Hillel. Many other Jewish community leaders, faculty, staff, students, and administrators have also played critical and collaborative roles in these efforts.
Since Oct. 7, we have been deeply concerned to make sure that Jewish members of our campus community are physically safe on campus and that they feel supported. Campus leadership, in partnership with UCPD, has ramped up security in response to tensions on campus. In addition to maintaining a strong presence of uniformed and plainclothes UCPD officers at campus rallies and protests, the campus has hired private security for these events, and staff from the Division of Student Affairs regularly attend and monitor all rallies and protests. We in the CACJLCC, including student leaders, have been in regular communication with campus and UCPD leadership on these enhanced security plans.
A group of more than 380 UC Berkeley faculty have signed on to a public statement unequivocally condemning the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel. Signatories include Provost Ben Hermalin, Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Chancellor Carol Christ, Mark Yudof, former president of the University of California system, and multiple Nobel Laureates. Many students, alumni, parents, and colleagues at other universities have expressed tremendous appreciation for this statement and cited it as a positive example for other universities.
Student leaders and staff at Berkeley Hillel and Berkeley Chabad have facilitated daily spaces for reflection, learning, dialogue, and community, facilitated variously by rabbis, staff members, faculty, and mental health experts. Staff and faculty of the HDI have also created regular opportunities for community virtually and in-person among their affiliated student and faculty fellows: frequent Zoom briefings with experts on the ground in Israel; and in-person meetings with faculty and staff to discuss the latest issues together in community.
Emotional and mental health support and academic accommodations
The campus offers emotional and mental health resources to all students and has amplified messaging around the availability of such services in response to recent events. Mental health support for students can be accessed via University Health Services Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and general well-being resources are also available. In addition, the Provost has communicated to all university leaders across all teaching units, and to all instructors, urging them to offer flexibility, extensions, and where appropriate, other academic accommodations for students impacted by the crisis. He has also encouraged them to be compassionate and understanding wherever possible, honoring not only the letter but the spirit of our policies. We, in the leadership of the CACJLCC and the AEI, have repeatedly amplified messages about mental health resources and academic accommodations and lobbied the administration to give particular attention to these matters.
Political advocacy and academic freedom
We are aware that some instructors have sought to use their classrooms or their official communications with students as a vehicle for their political positions around this conflict. This concerns us greatly and we have brought it to the attention of campus leadership repeatedly during the past several weeks. They have responded repeatedly and forcefully. In response to our requests, the Provost has sent repeated messages reminding instructors of the limits on using the classroom for political advocacy and underscoring the seriousness of the issue.
Student-led actions and leadership
Jewish student groups on campus have been organizing vigils, rallies, and community-building events at an unprecedented scale. The need for Jewish stakeholders to be together in community has never been more urgent and student leaders have admirably devoted hours upon hours of time and energy to support fellow students and to amplify student needs and concerns to campus leadership and to faculty and staff affiliated with CJS, HDI, the AEI, Chabad, and Hillel.
Collaboration with student-facing offices of the university
We work regularly with staff and leadership in Berkeley’s Division of Equity & Inclusion (E&I), Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD), and Division of Student Affairs (SA), to make sure antisemitism is included in the ongoing, regular work of these units. Since mid-October, we have intensified our collaboration with these offices. We have facilitated multiple lengthy conversations – one with the core leadership of E&I, another with 40+ staff from SA – about how to support Jewish and Israeli students in this moment. In early November, the heads of E&I and OPHD, as well as other senior leadership of the university, joined AEI Program Director Gregg Drinkwater at a two-day convening on antisemitism on college campuses held at USC. We are continuing to communicate several times a week with OPHD, SA, and E&I, as they work with us to improve their outreach and response to Jewish members of our campus community regarding ongoing instances of antisemitic bias and discrimination on campus.
Reporting and responding to threats, harassment, and antisemitic incidents
We urge members of the campus community to report ALL incidents of discrimination or harassment (including online doxing, trolling, or online stalking). To do so, connect with OPHD. For incidents that are possibly criminal in nature (such as vandalism, threats of violence, etc.) or if there are immediate concerns about safety, call 911. If it’s not an emergency, contact UCPD to file a report. We are continuing to amplify the security concerns and challenges for Jewish students to the authorities in those offices.
Campus-focused Jewish groups and programs
For individuals looking to engage with community, here’s a list of groups and programs you can connect with:
- Antisemitism Education Initiative (AEI)
- Berkeley Hillel
- Center for Jewish Studies (CJS)
- Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies (HDI)
- Jewish Registered Student Organizations (CalLink)
- Jewish Student Groups Hosted by Hillel
- Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
- Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at Berkeley