Woman speaks at podium while two men stand in background
From right, Brooke Resnik discusses the atmosphere at UC Berkeley, while state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel listen during a press conference in Sacramento on March 20, 2024, about SB 1287. (Photo/Screenshot)

State bill aims to make college campuses safer for Jewish students

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A Jewish student impacted by a violent protest at UC Berkeley just weeks ago traveled to Sacramento on Wednesday for the introduction of a bill that supporters say will protect college students from intimidation and prohibit calls for genocide.

“I really only feel safe within the Jewish community on campus now. I hide my Jewish star on most days and stop myself from speaking Hebrew to my friends,” said UC Berkeley freshman Brooke Resnik, whose mother is Israeli. “My experience is sadly not unique on our campuses anymore.”

State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), author of Senate Bill 1287, said the legislation has bipartisan backing from more than 20 legislators in the state Senate and Assembly, including members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

The bill would require the student codes of conduct at the state’s public colleges and universities, including community colleges, to “prohibit violence, harassment, intimidation and discrimination” that “interfere with the free exchange of ideas, or call for or support genocide,” according to its introduction.

SB 1287 would also require the schools to “maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions for public protests and demonstrations on campuses” and “develop mandatory training programs to educate students on how to exchange views in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility.”

Supporters gathered in Sacramento to announce the bill at a press conference.

“College campuses should be considered a safe space for students, a place where they can expect a healthy exchange of ideas without fear of violence or intimidation,” Glazer said. “Unfortunately, there has been a growing movement on campuses espousing confrontational actions that threaten the safety of some students. This must stop, and our legislation will make it clear how important it is to keep students’ free speech rights intact.”

At the press conference, California Legislative Jewish Caucus co-chairs Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley) and Sen. Scott Wiener (D-S.F.) noted that the bill aims to curb activity that makes any college student, of any background, feel unsafe.

“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,” Gabriel said. “Everyone deserves the right to walk across campus without being physically attacked, and everyone deserves the right to peacefully express their views.”

Wiener concurred.

“It’s outrageous and unfathomable that anyone would feel unsafe wearing a kippah or Star of David on campus — just like it would be outrageous if a Muslim woman did not feel safe wearing a hijab on campus,” he said. “We would be condemning that as well.”

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.

The bill was developed in collaboration with Hillel International, including with staff who have expertise in freedom of expression on campuses, Gabriel told J.

Additional speakers on Wednesday included Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), who spoke of the need for students to feel secure on their campuses.

“This bill puts the onus on those in charge to ensure that safety and that inclusion, and I think it is a small step in what is a critical juncture,” Bauer-Kahan said.

Concern over the safety of Jewish students has reached new levels since the Feb. 26 mob violence at UC Berkeley when pro-Palestinian protesters upended a speaking event with an Israeli lawyer and reserve military officer. They forced the program’s cancellation and an evacuation from Zellerbach Playhouse.

Two Jewish students at the university suffered minor injuries during the protest. Resnik was one of them.

A member of the UC Berkeley club Tikvah Students for Israel, Resnik was helping at Zellerbach when the protesters broke into the theater.

“Members of our student organization were spat at and cursed. After seeing four members of the protest manage to get inside of the building, I ran to attempt to close the door,” she said. “Protesters put their hands on my neck, and I was strangled.”

She managed to get away and flee with other students through an underground tunnel.

Resnik, who said that protesters at past events called her a “genocide sympathizer,” also described her experience in front of Sather Gate, where anti-Israel protesters have blocked the main arch for hours at a time over the past weeks.

“I have stood in front of the gate frozen many times, afraid to enter my own campus. I am scared of the Jewish star around my neck, scared I will be castigated for my involvement in the Jewish community and my support for my Israeli heritage.”

Last month’s incident at Zellerbach prompted a federal investigation into the university’s handling of antisemitism by the U.S. Department of Education.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce also announced an investigation into antisemitism at UC Berkeley.

In the aftermath of Oct. 7, antisemitic incidents — including instances of harassment targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students on college and high school campuses — have risen nationwide.

Berkeley is far from the only California campus with problems. Recently at UC Santa Barbara, Glazer noted, “Jewish students were targeted by antisemitic messages written on a chalkboard of an Israeli politics class.”

SB 1287 is at the start of the legislative process. The earliest it could end up in front of Gov. Gavin Newsom would be August.

Ryan Torok

Ryan Torok is an L.A.-based freelance reporter and former Jewish Journal staff writer.