Protesters hold sign across main arch of UC Berkeley Sather Gate
Anti-Israel demonstrators block Sather Gate at UC Berkeley on March 11, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

UC Berkeley chancellor to post ‘observers’ at Sather Gate

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More than a month after anti-Israel protesters began blocking the main arch of UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate and eight days after 250 Jewish students, faculty and allies marched in silence to “liberate the gate,” the university’s chancellor said she will take steps to address the situation.

“The current protest at Sather Gate has been unusual in the length of time that it has gone on, the disruption it has imposed, and the conflict it has engendered,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said Tuesday in a campuswide email. “Political protest is a protected — indeed a valued — activity on the Berkeley campus, it is also subject to time, place, and manner regulations.”

Christ said that the “variety of complaints” have led her to a decision to “post observers who can monitor and report on the situation” at the iconic gate. Meanwhile, her office will continue to “try to connect” with both protest organizers and those objecting to it, she said, “so that we can find a path forward and reduce conflict.”

The chancellor added that she’s “convening a small group to re-examine the policies and procedures” around the “time, place and manner” restrictions on freedom of speech on campus. Christ said she is uncertain that the current approach is “serving us well.”

 It appears the university is finally taking action.

Although students could still walk through the side arches of Sather Gate, Jewish students have reported incidents of harassment and intimidation. Protesters blocking the main arch have shouted at or filmed Jewish students whom they recognize or identify by their jewelry, such as a Star of David necklace.

Professor Ethan Katz, who is director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Jewish Studies, said he applauds Christ’s statement and the actions she outlined.

“I think the reason we are where we are is [administrators] feel hamstrung by the policies and their ability to respond,” said Katz, who chairs the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Student Life and Campus Climate.

Professor Ron Hassner, who is two weeks into his open-ended sit-in to protest the administration’s response to Jewish student safety, including at Sather Gate, said Christ’s announcement shows that “there’s clearly progress, there’s clearly a plan” to resolve the issues at the gate. However, he noted that the letter left him with a lot of questions.

“What is the timeline? Who are the people [monitoring] going to be? Who is on this committee?” asked Hassner, who is faculty director of the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. He said he would pose these questions to the chancellor’s office.

J. contacted the chancellor’s office for comment but did not hear back.

“I think the fact that there is a stance is encouraging,” Hassner said. “After a month and a half of crying out, it appears the university is finally taking action, and I think that’s great.”

Jew,  Jewish,  J. The Jewish News of Northern California
Emma Goss.(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.