UC Berkeley

CASE SUMMARY

Felber v. Yudof, 851 F. Supp. 2d 1182, 283 Ed. Law Rep. 144 (N.D. Cal. 2011)

  • This incident occurred during “Apartheid Week,” an event held by the SJP, which, despite having elements that violated the campus Code of Conduct, Berkeley Campus Regulations sections 211, 312, and 321, and California Penal Code §12556  regarding the use of imitation guns, is sanctioned by the University to be held each year.
  • The Administrators of the University at the time, including Dean Poullard, confirmed via email his authorization and permission for certain “Checkpoints” areas where SJP members, bearing realistic-looking assault weapons, aggressively asked passing students if they were Jewish, who were forced to navigate around barbed wire intentionally placed on the ground.
  • Faced with the unfair choice of her safety or her education, Dr. Engelberg took up her cause, seeking to compel UC Berkeley to maintain a safe place for students holding diverse political views to learn and safely express their beliefs. 

While UC Berkeley “was the birthplace of what came to be known as the Free Speech Movement in 1964,” when a forum for thought becomes openly hostile and what once was disagreed upon in debate moves to the physical, manifesting in actual violence, the limit of what is acceptable conduct should be established and enforced by the University.

Jessica Felber, who was 17 when she began attending Berkeley, was assaulted when “[a]n other student, Husam Zakharia, who has a leadership role in [Students for Justice in Palestine] (“SJP”), allegedly rammed a shopping cart into Felber intentionally, causing her physical injuries that required medical attention.)

This incident occurred during “Apartheid Week,” an event held by the SJP, which, despite having elements that violated the campus Code of Conduct, Berkeley Campus Regulations sections 211, 312, and 321, and California Penal Code §12556  regarding the use of imitation guns, is sanctioned by the University to be held each year.

The Administrators of the University at the time, including Dean Poullard, confirmed via email his authorization and permission for certain “Checkpoints” areas where SJP members, bearing realistic-looking assault weapons, aggressively asked passing students if they were Jewish, who were forced to navigate around barbed wire intentionally placed on the ground.

Mr. Zakharia had previously spit on Miss Felber, calling her disgusting. It was these two incidents that led the Alameda County Superior Court to issue a permanent restraining order requiring Zakharia to stay away from her at all times. Despite this order, Miss Felber still feared for her safety.

Faced with the unfair choice of her safety or her education, Dr. Engelberg took up her cause, seeking to compel UC Berkeley to maintain a safe place for students holding diverse political views to learn and safely express their beliefs. Dr. Engelberg supported Miss Felber as a plaintiff in an action against UC Berkeley for violating the civil rights of its Jewish students by endangering their health and safety and through its active support of Apartheid Week, which illustrated their de facto endorsement of anti-semitic groups and activities. 

The case was settled out of court.

While Apartheid Week continues as an event on the UC Berkeley campus and other campuses, if the crowd-funding campaign for the event promoted by “Bears for Palestine” is any indicator, support for the program is dwindling. Out of the $5,000 they hoped to raise for what was presumably the 2023 Apartheid Week, they had reached a mere 1% of that goal, with $50 contributed by a single donor.

More significantly, as a result of the pressure and exposure generated by the filing of the lawsuit by Miss Felber with the support and guidance of Dr. Engelberg, UC Berkeley not only acknowledged that the Checkpoints violated their own rules and should not be allowed, but actively banned them, eliminating the associated harassment and intimidation. Such actions were an implicit admission of wrongdoing by UC Berkeley in as much as they had allowed, and even endorsed the Checkpoints prior to litigation. 

The fallout from the institutional support of one political ideology at the expense of another was made clear to UC Berkeley and served as a warning to other universities that may have acted or would act similarly: they would be sued and suffer damage to their reputation while paying significant sums of money to defend the action.  

Miss Felber and Dr. Engelberg held UC Berkeley responsible for promoting an environment where anti-semitism was accepted by forcing the University to reverse its previous position of support for SJP and its tactics.

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