Fearing trouble, the chancellors of UC San Diego and UC Berkeley are pressing students to speak peacefully while protesting the war between Israel and Hamas, a conflict that's caused threats and some violence at the nation's universities.
UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla's remarks came Tuesday on the eve of a student government meeting at which supporters of Israel and Palestine will speak on the causes and effects of the war. Both sides made heated remarks during a board meeting last week.
Tensions also are high at UC Berkeley, where Chancellor Carol T. Christ is overseeing a campus where some student protesters have worn masks to avoid being identified and targeted on social media. She addressed the matter in a statement Friday.
The two chancellors, who oversee universities that collectively serve about more than 88,000 students, took different approaches in addressing their communities. Khosla mostly spoke in a general way, while Christ was more specific.
"I hear our campus community joining me in condemning Antisemitism and Islalamophobia and mourning the tragic losses of innocent civilian lives in Israel and the Gaza Strip," Khosla said in a statement.
"I also hear our community calling for unwavering support for freedom of speech and spirited discourse, but simultaneously for a redoubled commitment to ensuring a supportive, welcoming campus in which all members — including our Jewish and Palestinian students, faculty and staff — feel a sense of belonging and physical safety."
He added, "Passionate speech is natural in these circumstances, but threats of violence have no place on our campus and will not be tolerated."
Khosla met with Jewish students at Hillel of San Diego within a week of war's start Oct. 7. The university has declined to say whether he has also met with Palestinian students.
"The chancellor doesn't wish to discuss what he's been talking about in private conversations," said Matt Nagel, a campus spokesman said Tuesday.
Khosla's remarks received a lukewarm response from George Chi Ioi Lo, president of UC San Diego's Associated Students, which oversees the interests of undergraduates.
"I think that a statement by Chancellor Khosla was needed," Lo said. "But he did not fully address any single issue. Students want him to be more specific. Muslim students want him to condemn Israel. And Jewish students want him to say he condemns Hamas as well as antisemitism."
The UCSD chapters of the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine could not be reached for comment.
In her statement to the UC Berkeley community last week, Christ said, "I have been deeply disturbed and saddened by the many messages I have received from students who have opposing views about the conflict, and similar fears for their safety and well-being on our campus — fears largely borne of condemnable, toxic expression that is particularly rife on social media, and has no place on our campus or in our discourse.
"I am dismayed by and condemn the harassment, threats, and doxxing that have targeted our Palestinian students and their supporters. I reject the equating of support for the Palestinian people or their statehood with support for terrorism. Additionally, the conflation of Palestinian identity with Muslim religion has led to an alarming increase in reports of Islamophobic incidents," she continued.
Christ added, "I am appalled by and condemn any condoning of or making excuses for terrorism, by stereotyping, threats, and the repetition of false, damaging tropes about Jewish people. I reject calls for Israel's elimination."
Wednesday's UC San Diego student government meeting will be followed on Thursday by a protest at the School of Medicine that will focus on the injuries and death Palestinians have suffered in Gaza.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.