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Jewish students file lawsuit against UC Regents, UCLA admin for discrimination

Powell Library is pictured. Three students filed a lawsuit against UCLA with allegations of discrimination and lack of access to facilities. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Gabrielle Gillette

June 9, 2024 4:36 p.m.

Three Jewish UCLA students filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the UC Board of Regents and six members of the UCLA administration, alleging religious, racial and ethnic discrimination, among others.

The students — one second-year history student and two rising third-year law students — alleged in the suit that since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Palestinian political party and militant group Hamas, pro-Palestine protests on campus have restricted Jewish students and faculty members from accessing their classes, offices and other buildings, including Powell Library.

According to a campus activity update from April 30, access to Royce Quad was limited during the pro-Palestine solidarity encampment, forcing many students to enter Powell Library and Kaplan Hall from the south-facing entrances and Royce Hall and Haines Hall from their north or west entrances.

A media liaison for the Palestine solidarity encampment did not respond in time to a request for comment about the claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that the UC treated Jewish religious activities, including wearing Jewish symbols and expressing support for Israel, differently than secular activities and denied them the full benefits of UCLA programs on the basis of their religion.

“UCLA should have taken steps to ensure that its Jewish students were safe and protected from harassment and undeterred in obtaining full access to campus facilities,” the lawsuit said.

Named defendants include administrative officials such as UC President Michael Drake, Chancellor Gene Block, Executive Vice President Darnell Hunt, Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Monroe Gorden Jr. and Associate Vice Chancellor Rick Braziel — who heads the recently formed Office of Campus of Safety.

[RELATED: Chancellor Gene Block announces Office of Campus Safety]

In a press release, the students’ lawyers claimed UCLA was aware of antisemitic behavior during the encampment. However, the lawyers claimed that UCLA did not intervene, instead hiring private security to discourage “unapproved” students from entering the areas blocked off by the encampment.

“That is a profound and illegal failure of leadership,” said Mark Rienzi, president and CEO of Becket, a law firm specializing in religious liberty, in the press release.

The lawsuit also alleges that the UC deprived the plaintiffs of equal protection under the Ralph Civil Rights Act by allowing pro-Palestine protesters to harass and threaten them. The lawsuit cites accounts of Jewish students saying that antisemitic symbols and anti-Jewish chants on campus left students feeling “‘scared for’ their ‘life’”.

[RELATED: Jewish students express concern over antisemitism at UCLA]

The students claim they have suffered emotional and physical stress as a result, which they alleged has diverted time and focus away from their studies.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor for strategic communications, said in an emailed statement that UCLA is aware of the lawsuit and remains committed to supporting the safety and well-being of its community

“We will review and respond in due course,” said Osako. “UCLA remains committed to supporting the safety and wellbeing of the entire Bruin community.”

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